IN RE TAYLER F., SC 18280
Judicial District of Tolland
Juveniles; Neglect; Whether Statements by Children, who did not Testify at Neglect Trial, were Properly Admitted Under Residual Exception to Hearsay Doctrine; Whether There was Sufficient Basis for Finding that Children were Unavailable. The commissioner of the department of children and families (petitioner) brought neglect petitions concerning the respondent mother's two minor children. Both children had reported incidents of substance abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, neglect and domestic violence involving the respondent and her live-in boyfriend. The children, who were then twelve and ten years old, did not testify. At trial, the respondent objected to the admission of documents prepared by a police officer, a clinical psychologist and department workers that contained allegations by the children and to the admission of testimony of a department worker about statements that the children made to her. The respondent claimed that the children's statements were hearsay to which no exception applied. The petitioner countered that the children's statements were admissible under the residual exception to the hearsay doctrine, under which hearsay statements are admissible if (1) there is a reasonable necessity for the admission of the statement, and (2) the statement is supported by equivalent guarantees of trustworthiness and reliability. The respondent argued that admitting the children's statements would be a violation of her confrontation rights because the petitioner had not proven that the children were unavailable to testify. The trial court found that the children's statements were admissible under the residual exception and, following the trial, rendered judgment adjudicating the children neglected. On appeal, the respondent challenged, among other things, the trial court's ruling admitting the children's statements under the residual exception. The Appellate Court (111 Conn. App. 28) affirmed the trial court's decision, determining that there was an adequate basis for the trial court's ruling that the children were unavailable to testify in that the petitioner had made an offer of proof that the children's therapist would testify that the children would suffer emotional harm if forced to testify, and a police officer had testified that the children became visibly upset when he asked them about domestic violence in their home. Upon the granting of the respondent's petition for certification to appeal from the decision, the Supreme Court will determine whether the Appellate Court correctly concluded that the trial court properly admitted statements under the residual exception to the hearsay rule.