State v. Labarge
A defendant may not be entitled to suppress a spontaneous statement that was elicited without a custodial interrogation. On Sept. 9, 2009, the defendant, Michael Labarge, was arrested and charged with the murder of Cornell Johnson. Judge Robert Brunetti set Labarge's bond at $5 million. On September 17, Public Defender Christopher Eddy filed an appearance on behalf of Labarge. On September 25, Labarge went to the Meriden Superior Court. When he returned to the MacDougall-Walker corrections facility, he underwent a strip search, ate a meal and stayed in a holding cell that was 20 by 50 feet. During the admissions process, Labarge allegedly made an incriminating statement to one of the corrections officers, Serge Duquette, who recognized Labarge and knew his street name, Percocet. Allegedly Duquette said, "What's up, Percocet," discussed hometown ties and said that he recognized the defendant's girlfriend, because he had grown up in New Britain. Duquette testified that he did not provide a Miranda warning. In October 2009, Labarge allegedly talked to an inmate, John Grzeszczyk, and made another incriminating statement. The defendant moved to suppress the statements. "[T]he prosecution may not use statements, whether exculpatory or inculpatory, stemming from custodial interrogation of the defendant unless it demonstrates the use of procedural safeguards effective to secure the privilege against self incrimination," pursuant to State v. Read, a decision of the Connecticut Appellate Court. The court found that Duquette was engaged in casual conversation with the defendant, as opposed to an interrogation, and was not required to provide the defendant a Miranda warning. "Although Officer Duquette was aware of the charges pending against the defendant," wrote the court, "the conversation was one of small talk designed to reduce the stress level of an inmate returning from court." The court denied the defendant's motion to suppress evidence of the statement to Officer Duquette. The court also found that because there was no formal arrangement between law enforcement and Grzeszczyk, the prisoner was not acting as an agent of the state when he spoke to the defendant. The court denied the defendant's motion to suppress his statement to Grzeszczyk.