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State v. Ruiz

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

March 12, 2019

STATE OF CONNECTICUT
v.
JOSE RUIZ

          Argued January 2, 2019

          Information charging the defendant with violation of probation, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of New Haven, where the court, Blue, J., denied the defendant's motion to suppress certain evidence; thereafter, the matter was tried to the court; judgment revoking the defendant's probation, from which the defendant appealed to this court

          Mary Boehlert, assigned counsel, for the appellant (defendant).

          Lisa A. Riggione, senior assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Patrick J. Griffin, state's attorney, and Brian K. Sibley, Jr., senior assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

          DiPentima, C. J., and Alvord and Beach, Js.

          OPINION

          DiPENTIMA, C. J.

         The defendant, Jose Ruiz, appeals from the judgment of the trial court revoking his probation and imposing a sentence of seven and one-half years incarceration, execution suspended after four years, and three years of probation. On appeal, the defendant claims that the trial court (1) improperly denied his motion to suppress the one-on-one showup identification on the ground that the identification procedure was not unnecessarily suggestive, (2) improperly found that he violated his probation, and (3) abused its discretion in revoking his probation. We are not persuaded and, accordingly, affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         The following facts and procedural history are necessary for our resolution of this appeal. On July 13, 2012, the defendant was convicted of three counts of assault in the first degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-59 (a) (3) and one count of carrying a pistol without a permit in violation of General Statutes § 29-35 (a), and was sentenced to twelve years incarceration, execution suspended after fifty-four months, and three years of probation. The defendant was released from incarceration on June 12, 2014, and placed on probation. As a condition of his probation, the defendant was not to violate the criminal laws of the United States, the state of Connecticut or any other state or territory.

         On November 22, 2015, as a result of an incident at a Dunkin' Donuts in New Haven, the defendant was arrested and charged with attempt to commit robbery in the first degree in violation of General Statutes §§ 53a-49 and 53a-134, threatening in the second degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-62 and breach of peace in the second degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-181. Following the defendant's arrest, his probation officer, Ada Casanova, on December 3, 2015, applied for an arrest warrant on the ground that the defendant had violated a condition of his probation. The next day, the application was granted and the arrest warrant was issued. The defendant denied the violation of probation charge and, on February 28, 2017, filed a motion to suppress the one-on-one showup identification that occurred shortly after the alleged incident on the ground that the identification procedure was unnecessarily suggestive.

         On May 23, 2017, the court held a hearing on the defendant's motion to suppress. Following testimony from one witness, Police Officer Jason Santiago, and oral argument, the court concluded that although the identification procedure used by the police was suggestive, it was not ‘‘unnecessarily suggestive.'' After the court ruled on the defendant's motion, the hearing on the defendant's violation of probation charge commenced.

         During the violation of probation hearing, the court heard testimony from three witnesses, Lawrence Welch, Casanova, and the first assistant clerk for the judicial district of New Haven, and also incorporated and considered Santiago's testimony from the earlier hearing on the motion to suppress. Following argument, the court found that the state had proven, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the defendant had violated his probation when ‘‘he accosted . . . Welch at the Dunkin' Donuts . . . and threatened him in various verbal ways and, at one point, displayed in a threatening manner a . . . weapon with a black handle . . . and chased . . . Welch a great distance . . . causing . . . Welch a great and very understandable fear.'' Although the court concluded that there was insufficient evidence to support a finding that the defendant had committed robbery or attempted robbery, it determined that the evidence was sufficient to support a finding that the defendant had committed an act of threatening in the second degree in violation § 53a-62 (a) (1). The court revoked the defendant's probation and sentenced him to seven and one-half years incarceration, execution suspended after four years, and three years of probation. This appeal followed. Additional facts will be set forth as needed.

         I

         The defendant claims that the trial court improperly denied his motion to suppress the one-on-one showup identification because the identification procedure was unnecessarily suggestive and unreliable. We conclude that the identification procedure was not unnecessarily suggestive.

         We begin our analysis by setting forth our standard of review. ‘‘The test for determining whether the state's use of an unnecessarily suggestive identification procedure violates a defendant's federal due process rights derives from the decisions of the United States Supreme Court in Neil v. Biggers, 409 U.S. 188, 196-97, 93 S.Ct. 375, 34 L.Ed.2d 401 (1972), and Manson v. Brathwaite, 432 U.S. 98, 113-14, 97 S.Ct. 2243, 53 L.Ed.2d 140 (1977). As the court explained in Brathwaite, fundamental fairness is the standard underlying due process, and, consequently, reliability is the linchpin in determining the admissibility of identification testimony . . . . Thus, the required inquiry is made on an ad hoc basis and is two-pronged: first, it must be determined whether the identification procedure was unnecessarily suggestive; and second, if it is found to have been so, it must be determined whether the identification was nevertheless reliable based on examination of the totality of the circumstances. . . . Furthermore, [b]ecause the issue of the reliability of an identification involves the constitutional rights of an accused . . . we are obliged to examine the record scrupulously to determine whether the facts found are adequately supported by the evidence and whether the court's ultimate inference of reliability was reasonable. . . . Nevertheless, [w]e will reverse the trial court's ruling [on evidence] only [when] there is an abuse of discretion or [when] an injustice has occurred . . . and we will indulge in every reasonable presumption in favor of the trial court's ruling. . . . Because the inquiry into whether evidence of pretrial identification should be suppressed contemplates a series of [fact bound] determinations, which a trial court is far better equipped ...


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