STATE v. TODD R. ROMANKO, SC 19112

Judicial District of Hartford

 

      Criminal; Whether Defendant’s Constitutional Right to Present a Defense was Violated when Trial Court Precluded him from Introducing Certain Demonstrative Evidence. A police officer stopped the defendant's car after observing the vehicle swerving.  The officer gave the defendant three field sobriety tests: the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the walk and turn test and the one leg stand test.  The defendant was arrested after he failed all three tests.  At trial, the defendant testified that he was not able properly to perform some of the field sobriety tests because, five years prior to his arrest, his knee was badly injured in a dirt bike accident.  Defense counsel then sought to present demonstrative evidence.  Outside the presence of the jury, defense counsel stated that he sought to have the defendant perform the "heel to toe" and "one leg stand" tests in front of the jury.  The trial court denied the request to admit the evidence, reasoning that it would be inappropriate for the defendant to demonstrate what he thought occurred on the night in question. The court further stated that it would give the defendant "every leeway" to describe the events through his testimony.  The defendant was convicted of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence and he appealed, claiming that the trial court violated his constitutional right to present a defense in refusing to permit him to introduce the demonstrative evidence.  The Appellate Court (139 Conn. App. 670) affirmed the conviction, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in ruling that such demonstrative evidence was unreliable in that an in-court demonstration would not have reliably recreated how the defendant performed the tests on the night in question.  The court also noted that the defendant had been permitted to introduce the evidence through his testimony.  The Supreme Court granted the defendant certification to appeal and will consider whether the Appellate Court properly determined that the trial court did not violate the defendant's constitutional right to present a defense in precluding him from introducing the demonstrative evidence.