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Criminal Jury Instructions

Criminal Jury Instructions Home

2.5-5 Complaining Witness Testimony

New, June 13, 2008 (modified April 23, 2010)

Evidence has been introduced that the complaining witness,1 <insert name of complainant>, may be culpable in the alleged offense. You must consider the credibility of <insert name of complainant> in light of any motive (he/she) might have for testifying falsely and incriminating the accused, <insert name of defendant>.

In evaluating the testimony of this witness, you should consider (his/her) appearance and demeanor as a witness, the reasons given for (his/her) coming forward and telling (his/her) story to the authorities, and whether any motive has appeared or any reason is apparent why (he/she) would accuse the defendant.

You must consider and compare (his/her) testimony with all the other testimony and evidence in the case. It is up to you to determine whether to believe this witness. Like all other questions of credibility, this is a question you must decide based on all the evidence presented to you.
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1 "A complaining witness or prosecuting witness is the person who was chiefly injured, in person or property, by the act constituting the alleged crime . . . and who instigates [causes the instigation of] the prosecution." State v. Sinchak, 47 Conn. App. 134, 144 n.5 (1997), quoting Black's Law Dictionary (6th Ed. 1990).

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 complaining witness exception was first discussed in State v. Cooper, 182 Conn. 207 (1980), in which the Court said "[s]ince the complaining witness could himself have been subject to prosecution depending only upon the veracity of his account of this particular criminal transaction, the court should have instructed the jury in substantial compliance with the defendant's request to charge to determine the credibility of that witness in the light of any motive for testifying falsely and inculpating the accused. We emphasize, however, that in order for the request to be applicable to the issues in the case, there must be evidence, as there was here, to support the defendant's assertion that the complaining witness was the culpable party." Id., 212. See also State v. Keiser, 196 Conn. 122, 133 (1985) (insufficient evidence that witness was a culpable party).

"To be sufficient to implicate culpability, the evidence must directly connect a complaining witness to the crime with which the defendant is charged. . . . It is not sufficient to raise a mere suspicion that the witness may have committed the crime." State v. Sinchak, 47 Conn. App. 134, 144 (1997). "It is not enough to show that the party had a motive to commit the crime . . . nor is it enough to raise a mere suspicion that he may have committed the crime" (Citations omitted.) State v. Byrd, 34 Conn. App. 368, 373 (1994).
 


 

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