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State v. Tony M.

Supreme Court of Connecticut

August 27, 2019

STATE OF CONNECTICUT
v.
TONY M.[*]

          Argued January 17, 2019

         Procedural History

         Amended information charging the defendant with the crimes of murder and risk of injury to a child, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Middlesex, where the court, Vitale, J., denied the defendant's motions to preclude and to admit certain evidence; thereafter, the case was tried to the jury before Vitale, J.; verdict and judgment of guilty, from which the defendant appealed. Affirmed.

          Norman A. Pattis, with whom, on the brief, was Brittany Paz, for the appellant (defendant).

          Robert J. Scheinblum, senior assistant state's attorney, Peter A. McShane, former state's attorney, and Eugene R. Calistro, Jr., former senior assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

          Robinson, C. J., and Palmer, McDonald, D'Auria, Mullins, Kahn and Ecker, Js.

          OPINION

          MULLINS, J.

         The defendant, Tony M., appeals from the judgment of conviction, rendered after a jury trial, of murder in violation of General Statutes § 53a-54a and risk of injury to a child in violation of General Statutes § 53-21 (a) (1). On appeal, the defendant makes three claims. First, he claims that the trial court improperly denied his motion to suppress certain evidence arising from statements that he had made to the police while in the hospital on the ground that any waiver of his Miranda[1] rights prior to making those statements was involuntary. In connection with that claim, he argues that his statements were made involuntarily due to his weakened physical condition at the time he made them. Second, he claims that evidence regarding his statements was also inadmissible because the interview was not recorded, as required by General Statutes § 54-1o. Third, he claims that the trial court improperly precluded him from introducing into evidence a letter in which he offered to plead guilty to manslaughter in exchange for twenty-five years incarceration. We disagree with the defendant's claims and, accordingly, affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         The record reveals the following facts, which the jury reasonably could have found, and procedural history. On July 5, 2015, the defendant threw the victim, his seven month old baby, from the Arrigoni Bridge into the Connecticut River in Middletown. The defendant then jumped off the bridge himself. The defendant survived the fall; the baby did not. In the weeks leading up to the murder, the defendant's relationship with the baby's mother became increasingly troubled, and they separated. As a result, the baby's mother decided to move out of the house where they had been living together for almost two years. At the same time, the baby's mother applied for, and was granted, a temporary restraining order against the defendant. In her application, she explained that the defendant had told her that he could make her and the baby disappear at any time. This caused her to fear for the safety of herself and the baby. At a subsequent hearing, on June 29, 2015, the court dissolved the temporary restraining order, and the defendant and the mother reached an agreement to share joint legal custody of their baby.

         Within days of this agreement, on July 5, 2015, the defendant had custody of the baby at his mother's house, where he lived. At around 11 p.m., the defendant woke the baby from his sleep, put him in the stroller along with some blankets, a pacifier, his phone, an iPod, and a knife, and went for a walk. He soon began walking toward the Arrigoni Bridge with the intention of killing his baby and committing suicide. En route to the bridge, the defendant initiated the following exchange of text messages with the baby's mother:

‘‘[The Defendant]: I hope you had fun bullshitting, I really needed to talk to you . . . .
‘‘[The Baby's Mother]: I was trying to talk to my friend. She just broke up with her boyfriend and wanted to talk to me. Sorry I'm trying to be a good friend . . . .
‘‘[The Defendant]: Well, I'm sorry there was a problem regarding our son . . . .
‘‘[The Baby's Mother]: What's going on . . . . Why didn't you say that instead of saying I need to talk to you.
‘‘[The Defendant]: Clearly nothing that matters to you. And why would I say I NEED to talk to you if it wasn't important . . . .
‘‘[The Baby's Mother]: What was the matter?
‘‘[The Defendant]: Don't worry, you'll see later. Just remember I tried [to] contact you first . . . .
‘‘[The Baby's Mother]: Just tell me! Are you in the hospital?
‘‘[The Defendant]: No, and again it doesn't matter now. Just remember you wanted to play games and lie and be childish when I tried to reach out . . . .
‘‘[The Baby's Mother]: Okay Tony. Good night I'll talk to you tomorrow or Tuesday . . . .
‘‘[The Defendant]: No you won't . . . .
‘‘[The Baby's Mother]: What do you mean no?!
‘‘[The Defendant]: You won't talk to me tomorrow or any other day . . . .
‘‘[The Baby's Mother]: Tuesday is my day. So yes I'll text you in the morning to see when you'll be dropping off [the baby].
‘‘[The Defendant]: I won't be . . . .
‘‘[The Baby's Mother]: Tuesday is my day.
‘‘[The Defendant]: There is no more days . . . .
‘‘[The Baby's Mother]: Wtf you mean?!
‘‘[The Defendant]: Enjoy your new life without us ....
‘‘[The Baby's Mother]: You can't just decide not to bring him back . . . . It says in the agreement that Tuesday is my day. You can't just not bring him! Tony!!!! Seriously. Don't play around like that. Please don't try and take him from me!!!!''

         During the course of this exchange, the defendant arrived at the bridge with the baby. Shortly thereafter, he called his own mother, told her where he was, and began crying. While on the phone with the defendant, his mother could hear the baby cooing and then briefly crying in the background. Assuming the defendant was going to jump from the bridge, his mother pleaded with him to walk away. He responded that he couldn't and told her to ‘‘tell everyone I'm sorry.'' He then asked her to come to the bridge to get the stroller, iPhone, and iPod so that she would have pictures of the baby. He did not ask her to come get the baby. His mother and brother immediately drove to the bridge, calling the police on the way. Around this same time, a witness drove over the bridge on the way home from work. That witness ...


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