ANTHONY FURS v. SUPERIOR COURT OF THE JUDICIAL DISTRICT OF WATERBURY, SC 18183

Judicial District of Waterbury

 

Criminal; Self-Incrimination; Whether General Statutes 54-47a Requires that Witness be Offered both Transactional and Derivative Use Immunity from Prosecution in Exchange for Compelled Testimony; Whether State Constitution Requires Offer of Transactional Immunity. In 2007, plaintiff Anthony Furs pleaded guilty to a single count of murder in connection with the shooting death of Samuel Tirado, admitting that he killed Tirado at the behest of Christian Rodriguez and Alfredo Gonzalez. The plaintiff was sentenced to forty-seven years imprisonment and is challenging the validity of his guilty plea in a pending habeas corpus action. In 2008, the state called the plaintiff as a witness in Gonzalez' trial. When the plaintiff invoked his fifth amendment privilege against self-incrimination and refused to testify, the state offered him derivative use immunity, which prevents the state from using a witness' testimony, or any evidence derived from that testimony, against him. Derivative use immunity, however, does not preclude the state from prosecuting a witness based on evidence obtained independent of the witness' immunized testimony. The plaintiff claimed that he was entitled to transactional immunity, which completely protects a witness from future prosecution for crimes related to his testimony. He argued that, should he be granted transactional immunity for his testimony, the state could not prosecute him for murder if he prevailed in the pending habeas action. The trial court granted the plaintiff derivative use immunity and ordered him to testify. The plaintiff refused to testify and the court found him in contempt, imposing a sentence of six months to be served consecutive to the sentence for murder. The plaintiff brings this writ of error challenging the contempt ruling. He claims that the contempt finding was untenable because General Statutes 54-47a, which empowers a prosecuting authority to apply for an order granting a witness immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony, clearly contemplates that the witness be granted both transactional and derivative use immunity. Alternately, he contends that his state constitutional rights to due process and against self-incrimination required that he be granted transactional immunity before being compelled to testify. The state claims that 54-47a does not supersede a state's attorney's inherent authority to afford a witness only derivative use immunity.