STATE v. BARRY J. SMITH, SC 19007

Judicial District of Waterbury

 

      Criminal; Whether Uncharged Misconduct Evidence Properly Admitted in Sex Crime Case; Whether State Withheld Exculpatory Information in Violation of Brady v. Maryland; Whether Juror Improperly Excluded Based on Race.  Following a jury trial, the defendant was convicted of murder and felony murder in connection with the strangulation death of a woman whose body was found in the basement of an abandoned building frequented by drug users.  There was testimony at trial from an eyewitness who claimed that she heard the victim arguing with the defendant and two other men and that she saw the defendant hold the victim down while the two other men robbed, strangled and sexually assaulted her.  Another witness testified that the defendant had confessed to him in prison that he was having consensual sexual intercourse with the victim and accidentally choked her to death when she began resisting him.  Over the defendant’s objection, the trial court allowed testimony from Yvonne Readus, a woman with whom the defendant had been romantically involved, that on the night of the murder, she and the defendant had argued because she had seen the defendant in a car with the victim.  Readus further testified that during the course of the argument, the defendant grabbed her by the neck and started choking her, pushed her onto a couch and forced her to have sexual intercourse with him.  The court found that the evidence was admissible under the exception to the general rule prohibiting uncharged misconduct evidence in sex crime cases where the evidence is offered to prove a propensity to engage in aberrant and compulsive criminal sexual behavior.  On appeal, the defendant argues that the trial court’s admission of the uncharged misconduct evidence was improper because the conduct was too dissimilar to the charged crimes and because that evidence was unduly prejudicial.  The defendant also argues that the prosecution violated Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), by failing to disclose that its investigator offered Readus a “get out of jail free card” if she testified against the defendant and in remaining silent when Readus denied that she expected any favorable treatment in exchange for her testimony.  Finally, the defendant argues that the state violated his equal protection rights when it exercised a peremptory challenge to exclude a potential juror on the basis of his race.