STATE v. LUIS NORBERTO MARTINEZ, SC 18168

Judicial District of Hartford

 

Criminal; Rape Shield Statute; Whether Trial Court Improperly Declined to Convene a Hearing to Determine Whether Certain Evidence Regarding Complainant's Prior Accusations of Sexual Assault was Admissible Under the Rape Shield Statute. The state accused the defendant of sexually assaulting the complainant when she was thirteen years of age. At trial, the defendant requested that the trial court convene a hearing to determine whether certain evidence regarding the complainant's prior accusations of sexual assault against her brother and her stepuncle should be admitted pursuant to an exception to the rape shield statute, General Statutes 54-86f. As part of his offer of proof, the defendant produced two police reports, which indicated, among other things, that (1) the complainant's sister stated that she had observed the complainant having sex with her brother on two occasions and that prior to one of those occasions, the brother had claimed that the complainant wanted to shower with him; and (2) a social worker maintained that the complainant had changed her story regarding the incident with her brother. The defendant argued that these reports were relevant to the complainant's credibility and to whether he had used force against her. The court denied the defendant's request for a hearing, and he was subsequently convicted of various sexual offenses. On appeal, the defendant argued, among other things, that the trial court improperly declined to hold the requested hearing. The Appellate Court (106 Conn. App. 517) agreed and reversed the defendant's convictions. It concluded that the complainant's prior sexual conduct, as described in the police reports, was relevant to whether the defendant had used force against her. It explained that if the defendant had been able to show that the complainant's brother did not use force, he might have been able to establish a reasonable doubt as to whether he had used force when he had sex with the complainant. It further determined that because the defendant's offer of proof tended to demonstrate the falsity of the complainant's prior allegations, an evidentiary hearing was required under 54-86f. It added that because the proffered evidence satisfied 54-86f (4) in that it was "so relevant and material to a critical issue in the case that excluding it would violate the defendant's constitutional rights," harm to the defendant was automatically established. Accordingly, the Appellate Court reversed the trial court's judgment and remanded the matter for a new trial. In this appeal, the Supreme Court will decide, among other things, whether the trial court should have held an evidentiary hearing and whether the Appellate Court, in reversing the trial court's judgment, properly ordered a new trial as opposed to an evidentiary hearing.