On Friday, September 2nd, the Connecticut Supreme Court overturned a New Britain man’s murder conviction on the grounds he was denied the right to a fair trial. The Court threw out the conviction and ordered a new trial in a 7-0 ruling. The defendant, Patrick Miles, was charged and convicted with murder after the 2017 death of his wife in their New Britain home.
Barry, Barall, Taylor & Levesque, LLC worked tirelessly on this trial and objected to inappropriate comments made by the prosecutor during the State’s closing argument to the jury. These objections preserved Miles’ appellate claims and paved the way for this Supreme Court victory. Attorneys Anthony Spinella and Maria Barall tried the case and were assisted by law clerk Katelynn MacKinnon. Katelynn is now an associate attorney at BBTL whose practice is primarily focused on criminal defense.
The Hartford Courant reported that the Supreme Court reversed the conviction citing the prosecutor’s “repeated emphasis to the jury during closing arguments that Miles remained silent before trial.” By doing so, the Court stated, the prosecutor deprived the defendant of his right to a fair trial that is embodied in the 6th and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
Before and during the trial, Miles legally invoked his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. These are also called Miranda rights. However, as written in the Court’s opinion:
The prosecutor improperly commented on the defendant’s post-Miranda silence, in violation of the defendant’s due process right to a fair trial, and, accordingly, the judgment of conviction was reversed, and the case was remanded for a new trial: the state conceded that the prosecutor’s comment during rebuttal argument regarding the significant ‘‘delay in hearing [from the defendant] about the missing large quantity of money’’ was improper because its context revealed that it referred both to the defendant’s pre-Miranda and post-Miranda silence, and the prosecutor’s other references to the defendant’s silence during closing argument were ambiguous because they referred generally to the defendant’s delay in disclosing his version of events and could reasonably have been understood to include both the four days of pre-Miranda silence between the murder and the defendant’s arrest and the lengthier post-Miranda period between his arrest and trial…
The opinion goes on to state that the prosecution failed in its burden of proof to demonstrate that these improper remarks were harmless.
Specifically, the Supreme Court wrote in their opinion that “the prosecutor violated the proscriptions set forth in Doyle v. Ohio, 426 U.S. 610, 96 S. Ct. 2240, 49 L. Ed. 2d 91 (1976), by improperly commenting on the defendant’s exercise of his right to remain silent following his arrest and advisement of rights pursuant to Miranda v. Arizona.”
The Doyle v. Ohio decision of 1976 holds that it is “fundamentally unfair to allow an arrestee’s silence to be used to impeach an explanation subsequently given at trial after he had been impliedly assured, by the Miranda warnings, that silence would carry no penalty.”
Barry, Barall, Taylor & Levesque, LLC represents clients throughout Connecticut in criminal defense, personal injury, family law and estate planning matters. If you would like to schedule a free consultation to discuss your legal matter with one of our skilled and experienced trial attorneys, please call us in Manchester at 860-649-4400 or fill out our contact form.
Attorney Ryan P. Barry’s civil practice focuses on personal injury, commercial litigation, workers’ compensation defense, municipal law, and NCAA investigations. Attorney Barry is also a seasoned criminal litigator, having handled hundreds of cases in Connecticut’s state and federal courts. Learn More