Judicial District of New Haven


      Criminal; Sexual Assault; General Statutes § 54-86f Rape Shield Law; Whether Trial Court Properly Excluded Evidence of Victim's Prior Sexual Conduct. Following a jury trial, the defendant was convicted of sexual assault in the first degree and assault in the third degree in connection with allegations that he sexually assaulted his girlfriend.  At trial, the victim testified that the defendant was her first boyfriend and that, prior to having been forced by the defendant to engage in intercourse, she had been a virgin.  The victim also testified on direct examination about her relationship with Gordon Anic, claiming that Anic was a friend of her aunt and a pastor of a church, and that she stayed with and received financial assistance from him while she attended college.  The defendant then sought to present evidence that the victim had been engaged to Anic and that she had engaged in sexual activities with him, including "petting" and oral sex.  The rape shield statute, General Statutes § 54-86f, provides that evidence of a victim's sexual conduct is inadmissible unless, among other exceptions, the evidence is (1) offered by the defendant on the issue of the credibility of the victim and the victim has testified on direct examination as to her sexual conduct, or (2) "so relevant and material to a critical issue in the case that excluding it would violate the defendant's constitutional rights."  The trial court ruled that § 54-86f precluded the defendant from inquiring as to the victim's sexual activity with Anic because that evidence was not relevant.  The Appellate Court (114 Conn. App. 346) affirmed the convictions, rejecting the defendant's claims that evidence that the victim engaged in sexual activities with Anic while he provided her with financial support was relevant to show the victim's motive, bias and interest and would have demonstrated that the victim had been deceptive throughout her relationship with the defendant.  The court noted that the defendant was permitted to present evidence that both he and Anic had supported the victim financially and ruled that evidence that the victim and Anic had engaged in sexual activities did not tend to support the defendant's argument that the victim had fabricated the sexual assault claims because the defendant had ended his relationship with her.  The Appellate Court also found that the challenged ruling did not violate the defendant's rights to confrontation and to present a defense, noting that the defendant was permitted to present evidence as to the victim's credibility and in support of his theory of defense.  Finally, the Appellate Court rejected the defendant's claim that the evidence was admissible under § 54-86f to refute the victim's testimony that she had been a virgin prior to the alleged sexual assault by the defendant.  It reasoned that evidence that the victim had engaged in oral sex and petting with Anic did not contradict her testimony that she had been a virgin until the defendant forcibly engaged in penile-vaginal sexual intercourse with her.  The Supreme Court will now consider whether the Appellate Court properly upheld the trial court's preclusion of evidence regarding the victim's prior sexual conduct.