STATE v. TRICIA LYNNE COCCOMO, SC 18443
Judicial District of Stamford-Norwalk
Criminal; Whether Evidence that Defendant Transferred Property Following Motor Vehicle Accident was Properly Admitted to show Consciousness of Guilt; Whether Admission of Evidence Deprived Defendant of a Fair Trial. The defendant was involved in a two-car collision that resulted in the deaths of the three occupants of the other vehicle. In connection with the accident, the defendant was charged with, among other things, three counts of manslaughter in the second degree with a motor vehicle and with operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. At trial, the state was allowed to present evidence that, prior to her discharge from the hospital following the accident, the defendant had requested and had been given the results of her blood alcohol content test. The state also presented evidence that, shortly after the accident, the defendant had quitclaimed her interest in her Stamford home to her mother. The defendant was convicted and appealed. The Appellate Court (115 Conn. App. 384) reversed and remanded for a new trial, finding that the trial court had wrongly admitted the evidence of the defendant's request for the test results and of the property transfer because that evidence was unduly prejudicial and did not tend to establish the defendant's consciousness of guilt. The court noted that the state could offer no support for its contention that the defendant's act of transferring her interest in her home after the automobile accident was probative of consciousness of guilt of the commission of a crime and that, in light of the defendant's testimony that she had begun the transfer process prior to the accident, the true motivation for the transfer was speculative. Finally, the Appellate Court observed that, as this was a "close case" in which the state's evidence that the defendant was intoxicated at the time of the accident was not strong, the evidence that the defendant sought her test results and transferred her real estate likely affected the verdict. The Supreme Court will now decide whether the Appellate Court properly concluded that the trial court abused its discretion in admitting the disputed evidence and whether it properly concluded that the admission of that evidence deprived the defendant of a fair trial.