Judicial District of Stamford-Norwalk


      Criminal; Search and Seizure; Whether Records from Defendant's Cell Phone Should have been Suppressed; Whether Uncharged Misconduct Evidence was Improperly Admitted; Whether State Improperly Used Defendant's Post-Miranda Silence.  In January, 2002, Carlos Barradas was fatally shot in Norwalk.  The following month, Mamaroneck, New York police, who were investigating drug sales at the defendant's apartment, obtained a search warrant.  Norwalk police, who were investigating the defendant for the Barradas homicide, were invited to observe the search.  After finding only the defendant's girlfriend at the apartment and seizing a quantity of cocaine, the officers noticed the defendant driving nearby and arrested him. They found his cell phone on the vehicle's front passenger seat and later obtained the defendant's cell phone records.  The police also obtained a statement from the defendant's girlfriend implicating him in the murder.  Thereafter, the defendant was arrested for murder and was interviewed after he waived his Miranda rights.  He made certain statements before invoking his right to remain silent, and the interview was terminated.  Before trial, the defendant sought to suppress evidence of his cell phone records, which the state claimed established that he had traveled from Mamaroneck to Norwalk on the night of the murder. The trial court denied the motion to suppress.  It determined that the cell phone was lawfully seized because, although the warrant did not specifically list cell phones, it allowed for the seizure of drug paraphernalia as well as evidence that a named person was participating in a drug offense.  The cell phone, it concluded, was covered by the warrant.  The court further ruled that the inevitable discovery doctrine applied.  The defendant also sought to preclude the state from introducing evidence that, at an earlier time, he kidnapped a woman and held her at gunpoint in the same location in Norwalk as the murder.  The state claimed that this prior misconduct evidence was admissible on the issue of identity because the similarities between the charged and uncharged crimes were sufficient to establish them as signature crimes.  The court admitted the evidence,  noting that its probative value outweighed its prejudicial effect.  After a jury trial at which the cell phone records, the uncharged misconduct evidence and testimony as to the interview at the police station were introduced, the defendant was convicted of murder.  On appeal, the defendant claims that the warrant did not cover the search of his person or the seizure and subsequent search of his cell phone, that he had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the phone's contents, that there were no exceptions to the warrant requirement that justified the warrantless search and that the inevitable discovery doctrine did not apply.  He also argues that it was improper to admit the uncharged misconduct evidence because it did not satisfy the stringent test required of signature crimes.  In addition, he contends that the state elicited evidence that he invoked his right to remain silent during questioning by the police and that this fact was used as evidence of his guilt, in violation of Doyle v. Ohio, 426 U.S. 610 (1976).