STATE v. ADAM BENEDICT, SC 19034

Judicial District of Litchfield

 

†††† †Criminal; Sixth Amendment; Whether Defendantís Right to Confrontation was Violated and, If so, Whether the Violation was Harmful. The defendant was convicted of one count of sexual assault in the fourth degree.† At trial, the complainant admitted that she had a pending felony charge.† On redirect examination, she testified that the charge would be dismissed upon her successful completion of a pretrial diversionary program.† As to the conditions of the program, the complainant testified that she was required to report to a probation officer and perform community service. †Also, she denied that the state had promised her anything in return for her testimony.† On recross-examination, defense counsel sought to inquire about any other conditions of the program.† The trial court sustained the prosecutorís objection to the inquiry, ruling that it would allow questions relating only to the issue of whether the complainant was promised a reward for her testimony.† Subsequently, defense counsel was permitted to ask the complainant whether she was required to do anything else, without explaining any requirements.† She answered the question in the affirmative.† The defendant appealed, claiming that the restrictions on questioning violated his sixth amendment right to confrontation.† The Appellate Court (136 Conn. App. 36) agreed and reversed his conviction.† The court explained that pending charges have a potentially biasing effect on a witness, arising from the power of the state to influence the witnessí own fate before the court.† The court reasoned that here, in light of the prosecutorís attempt to suggest that the pendency of a felony charge against the complainant could not have influenced her to testify in favor of the state, defense counselís inquiry as to the other conditions of the program was essential to understanding the potential impact of the charge on her credibility.† The court rejected the stateís claim that any error was harmless because of the availability of corroborating evidence, reasoning that the complainant was the only witness to the alleged sexual misconduct. †Nor was the court persuaded that the error was harmless because the complainantís statement to the police predated her arrest on the pending charge, explaining that the jury reasonably could have inferred that her complaint was made under pressure from her boyfriend after he got involved in a dispute with the defendant.† The Supreme Court has granted certification to review whether the Appellate Court properly determined that the defendantís right to confrontation was violated and that he was harmed as a result.† The state contends, among other things, that the court improperly determined that a cognizable sixth amendment claim existed where, as here, the defendant was permitted to confront the witness by exposing potential bias on cross-examination and was prohibited only from exploring additional details about that bias on recross-examination.