STATE v. TAYLOR G., SC 19222
Judicial District of New Haven
Criminal; Juveniles; Whether Imposition of Statutory Mandatory Minimum Sentences on Defendant who Committed Crimes as a Child Violates Eighth Amendment Prohibition of Cruel and Unusual Punishments; Whether Evidence of Uncharged Sexual Misconduct Occurring Before Defendant’s Fourteenth Birthday Admissible. The defendant was charged with first degree sexual assault, fourth degree sexual assault and risk of injury to a minor in connection with a series of incidents involving a six year old complainant that occurred when the defendant was fourteen and fifteen years old. The case was transferred from the juvenile docket to the regular criminal docket pursuant to General Statutes § 46b-127, which requires transfer of cases involving certain crimes committed after a child attains age fourteen, and a jury found the defendant guilty of the charges. The defendant filed a motion requesting that the trial court impose sentences below the statutory ten year mandatory minimum for first degree sexual assault and the statutory five year mandatory minimum for risk of injury to a minor. He argued that imposition of the mandatory minimum sentences would violate the proportionality principle of the eighth amendment—that the punishment should fit the crime—by precluding the court from fashioning individualized sentences that took into consideration the mitigating qualities of youth. In support of his argument, the defendant relied on United States Supreme Court precedent holding that the eighth amendment prohibits the imposition of capital punishment and mandatory sentences of life without the possibility of release on those who were under eighteen at the time of their crime. The trial court denied the motion, finding that it was without authority to impose lesser sentences than those established by the legislature and that imposition of the mandatory minimum sentences was not unconstitutional. The court found that the mandatory minimum sentences here are constitutionally distinguishable from the sentences at issue in the United States Supreme Court cases, as the sentencing scheme here does not mandate irrevocably life-ending consequences that give a child no opportunity for reform and does not strip the court of all discretion in fashioning an appropriate sentence. While the defendant faced a possible maximum sentence of forty-nine years, the court imposed a total effective sentence of ten years of incarceration followed by three years of special parole. The defendant appeals, claiming that mandatory minimum sentences violate the eighth amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment when applied to a child because they do not allow the sentencing court to consider and give effect to relevant mitigating evidence of the child’s youth and immaturity. He also claims that the trial court improperly admitted uncharged misconduct evidence in the form of testimony from the complainant concerning acts of sexual misconduct perpetrated by the defendant prior to his fourteenth birthday to show that the defendant had a propensity to engage in aberrant and compulsive criminal sexual behavior. Finally, the defendant argues that the state’s expert on child abuse victims improperly vouched for the complainant’s credibility.