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Criminal Jury Instructions

Criminal Jury Instructions Home

2.5-3  Informant Testimony

Revised to April 23, 2010

A witness testified in this case as an informant.  An informant is someone who is currently incarcerated or is awaiting trial for some crime other than the crime involved in this case and who obtains information from the defendant regarding the crime in this case and agrees to testify for the state.  You must look with particular care at the testimony of an informant and scrutinize it very carefully before you accept it.  You should determine the credibility of that witness in the light of any motive for testifying falsely and inculpating the accused.

In considering the testimony of this witness, you may consider such things as:

  • the extent to which the informant's testimony is confirmed by other evidence;

  • the specificity of the testimony;

  • the extent to which the testimony contains details known only by the perpetrator;

  • the extent to which the details of the testimony could be obtained from a source other than the defendant;

  • the informant's criminal record;

  • any benefits received in exchange for the testimony;

  • whether the informant previously has provided reliable or unreliable information; and

  • the circumstances under which the informant initially provided the information to the police or the prosecutor, including whether the informant was responding to leading questions.

Like all other questions of credibility, this is a question you must decide based on all the evidence presented to you.

Commentary

Generally, the court should not instruct the jury on the credibility of a particular witness, but the Supreme Court has recognized three exceptions:  the complaining witness, an accomplice, and an informant.  See State v. Patterson, 276 Conn. 452, 470 (2005); State v. Ortiz, 252 Conn. 533, 561-62 (2000).

The exception for informant testimony was first recognized in State v. Patterson, 276 Conn. 452 (2005).  "Because the testimony of an informant who expects to receive a benefit from the state in exchange for his or her cooperation is no less suspect than the testimony of an accomplice who expects leniency from the state, we conclude that the defendant was entitled to an instruction substantially in accord with the one that he had sought."  Id., 470.  Though originally limited, in Patterson, to informants who had actually been promised a benefit in return for his or her testimony, in State v. Arroyo, 292 Conn. 558 (2009), the Court expanded it to any informant.  "[T]he trial court should give a special credibility instruction to the jury whenever [jailhouse informant] testimony is given, regardless of whether the informant has received an express promise of a benefit."  Id., 569.  

 In State v. Ebron, 292 Conn. 656 (2009), and State v. Boyd, 295 Conn. 707 (2010), the defendants claimed that they were entitled to an informant instruction because an informing witness had charges pending and may have had motives for testifying falsely about the defendant's statements.  In neither case was the claim preserved or reviewed, but the Court noted, in State v. Ebron, supra, 675 n.17, that the opportunity to question the witness about possible motives for testifying and the general credibility instruction were sufficient for such witnesses, and, in State v. Boyd, supra, 757-58 n.34, that the Patterson rule was applicable only to jailhouse informants.

 


 

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