STATE v. MATTHEW O'BRIEN-VEADER, SC 19038
Judicial District of Waterbury
Criminal; Murder; Prosecutorial Impropriety; Whether Evidence Sufficient to Support Kidnapping Conviction; Whether Trial Court Improperly Barred Testimony of Defense Witnesses. The defendant was charged with murder, kidnapping and felony murder in connection with the death of a man he had been living with in an abandoned factory building. The defendant asserted a defense of extreme emotional disturbance, claiming he had been sexually abused as a child and that the homicide was a single, out-of-character act triggered by homophobic rage over sexual acts that he suspected the victim had perpetrated on him while he was sleeping. The jury rejected that theory and found the defendant guilty of the charges. On appeal, the defendant contends that the prosecutor engaged in impropriety designed to discredit his extreme emotional disturbance defense and to show him not as a troubled young man but as a cold-blooded killer bent on murder. He claims the prosecutor unfairly denigrated him, his defense and his principal expert witness and improperly remarked on evidence that the trial court had ordered excluded. The defendant also contends that his kidnapping conviction and corresponding felony murder conviction should be reversed because there was no evidence that the confinement of the victim or the restriction of his movement was more than merely incidental to the commission of the murder. In addition, the defendant claims that the trial court abridged his constitutional right to present a defense when it barred the testimony of two witnesses who would have provided vital corroboration for his extreme emotional disturbance defense. Finally, the defendant argues that the trial court improperly denied his motion for a mistrial based upon the improper introduction of uncharged misconduct evidence; he contends that, although the trial court correctly struck the evidence and gave a limiting instruction, the prejudice to his defense could not be cured.