STATE v. SHERI PAIGE, SC 18495
Judicial District of Stamford-Norwalk
Criminal; Jury Instructions; Waiver; Whether Defendant Waived any Challenge to Trial Court's Jury Instruction on the Element of Materiality with Regard to a Perjury Charge. After a jury trial, the defendant was convicted of various criminal offenses, including perjury in violation of General Statutes § 53a-156 (a), which provides that "[a] person is guilty of perjury if, in any official proceeding, he intentionally, under oath, makes a false statement, swears, affirms or testifies falsely, to a material statement which he does not believe to be true." The perjury conviction arose out of certain allegedly false testimony that the defendant had provided in connection with a civil action. On appeal, she claimed that, in charging the jury on the element of materiality with regard to the perjury charge, the trial court improperly directed the jury to find that the defendant's testimony was material to the civil proceeding as a matter of law, thereby precluding the jury from resolving that issue. Because she failed to object to the court's instruction on the issue of materiality, she sought review under State v. Golding, 213 Conn. 233 (1989), which held that an unpreserved claim may be reviewed on appeal only if the defendant establishes, among other things, that a constitutional violation occurred that deprived the defendant of a fair trial. The Appellate Court (115 Conn. App. 717) determined that the defendant was not entitled to Golding review because she had waived her claim at trial. It explained that when the state requested that the court instruct the jury that the defendant's testimony was material as a matter of law, the defendant acknowledged that the issue of materiality was strictly a question of law for the court to determine, and she objected to the proposed instruction only on the ground that the record contained insufficient facts for the court to resolve the question of materiality. Additionally, it emphasized that when the trial court subsequently informed defense counsel that it intended to give the state's proposed materiality instruction, defense counsel simply replied: "Okay. Thank you." It also pointed out that, although the defendant submitted requests to charge that stated that the jury must resolve the issue of materiality, she later reversed her position by expressing to the court her belief that such issue was a matter of law to be decided by the court. It further determined that, because the defendant ultimately assented to the court's instruction on the element of materiality, it was irrelevant that it was the state that had proposed the instruction. Accordingly, the Appellate Court concluded that the defendant had waived any challenge to the trial court's instruction on materiality, and it therefore declined to afford her review under Golding. In this appeal, the Supreme Court will determine whether the Appellate Court's decision was correct.