STATE v. GEORGE A., SC 18729

Judicial District of New Britain

 

Criminal; Sufficiency of the Evidence; Expert Witnesses; Whether the Evidence was Insufficient to Establish that Defendant was Guilty of Promoting a Minor in an Obscene Performance; Whether State's Expert Witness Improperly Expressed an Opinion as to an Ultimate Issue of Fact. The defendant was charged with several sexual offenses in connection with his alleged physical and sexual abuse of the minor complainant. At trial, the complainant testified that the defendant had forced her to engage in certain sexual activities with mice, rats and balloons, including, among other things, an act known as "crushing," whereby the defendant would make her crush rodents with various parts of her body. She also testified that he videotaped her engaging in such activities, and two such videos were admitted into evidence. The state also introduced the testimony of a child abuse pediatrician, Nina Livingston, who opined that the complainant "had suffered an extensive history of severe maltreatment by [the defendant]" and that she had endured "multiple types of psychological abuse." Livingston also testified that the complainant's "reports that she had genital pain and bleeding suggested that she suffered significant tissue injury at the time of the sexual abuse" and that "the maltreatment she suffered was life threatening as it led to [a] suicide attempt." Over the defendant's objection on relevancy grounds, the trial court also admitted certain uncharged misconduct evidence, namely, the testimony of two females who both claimed that the defendant had forced them to engage in crushing activities. The court ultimately found the defendant guilty of sexual assault, risk of injury to a minor and promoting a minor in an obscene performance. In this appeal, the defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to establish that he was guilty of promoting a minor in an obscene performance in violation of General Statutes 53a-196b. He claims that the two videos that were admitted into evidence, which displayed the complainant crushing mice with her toes, merely depicted an act of animal cruelty, not a "prohibited sexual act" as required by 53a-196b and General Statutes 53a-193 (2). He also maintains that, in essentially testifying that he had sexually and psychologically abused the complainant, Livingston improperly expressed an opinion as to an ultimate issue of fact and bolstered the credibility of the complainant. His final claim is that the trial court improperly admitted the uncharged misconduct evidence. He maintains that although the evidence involved crushing activities, the uncharged misconduct did not satisfy the required level of similarity to justify the admission of the evidence to prove that he had a propensity to engage in the type of criminal sexual behavior with which he was charged.