State v. Reilly
As explained in the 2012 Connecticut Supreme Court case of State v. Guilbert, "[a]lthough the remedy of a mistrial is permitted under the rules of practice, it is not favored." Following a jury trial, Kenneth Reilly was convicted of counts of risk of injury to, or impairing the morals of, a child. The trial court had denied Reilly's motion to suppress statements made to Waterbury police officers as involuntary and in violation of his rights under the 1966 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Miranda v. Arizona. During the suppression hearing, Detective Ruda Pratt testified that Reilly waived his Miranda rights, reviewed and signed the statement she typed contemporaneously with his disclosure, admitting to touching the minor victim inappropriately. Sergeant Michael Ponzillo testified to verifying and notarizing the statement. Pratt attributed the form's typed end time of 11:12 a.m. to a typographical error. The automatically generated start time was 11:10 a.m. and the interview about 40 minutes. The defendant testified differently, including that he did not waive his Miranda rights or admit the allegations. He testified to threats and to signing the statement later at his home, which his mother corroborated. Pratt denied returning to Reilly's home. Ponzilla denied knowledge of it. At trial, Pratt and Ponzillo changed certain testimony after recalling that they returned to Reilly's home where he signed a corrected statement. Pratt testified that her name was omitted from the original statement. She retyped it from 11:10 a.m. to 11:12 a.m. On appeal, Reilly claimed that the court improperly denied his motion for a mistrial. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment. The defendant's claim involved an attack on the officers' credibility. It was for the jury to ascertain the effect of the officers' differing accounts on their credibility and the extent to which the officers' credibility influenced the weight the jury assigned to the defendant's statement. The trial court credited the officer's testimony and found that the second statement was substantively identical to the first, that the defendant's signed waiver of rights form was still in effect when he signed the second statement and that he did not request counsel before signing it. The court was within its discretion to conclude that the drastic remedy of a mistrial was not appropriate and, instead, provided a curative spoliation instruction.