STATE v. PASQUALE E. CIULLO, SC 19127

Judicial District of Stamford-Norwalk

†††† †Criminal; Prosecutorial Impropriety; Whether Defendant was Denied Right to Fair Trial due to Prosecutorís Vouching for Witnessesí Credibility. †The defendant was convicted of three counts of first degree unlawful restraint stemming from an incident involving a property boundary dispute with a Greenwich neighbor.† The neighbor had hired two laborers to install a fence on the property line and the defendant and his son confronted the laborers with guns and ordered them to sit down.† The defendant is also alleged to have chased his neighbor from the property with a shovel in hand. †The defendant appealed to the Appellate Court (140 Conn. App. 393), claiming he was denied his right to a fair trial in that the prosecutor improperly vouched for the credibility of witnesses.† Specifically, the defendant complained that, during closing argument, the prosecutor referred to the testimony by the laborers, and stated: "And those men are credible. I think they are both from Peru. I have a feeling like they would have walked over the Peruvian Andes mountains to get here." †After defense counsel objected, the prosecutor went on to explain: "Well, what I will say is that common sense suggests, I didn't mean to put it that way, common sense and the evidence suggest that they would have walked a thousand miles to testify in this case." †The prosecutor later stated: "That's why they were here, honest, outraged. †That's why they testified truthfully and accurately."† The Appellate Court rejected the defendantís prosecutorial misconduct claim, viewing the prosecutorís statements as an invitation to the jury to draw a reasonable inference that the laborers were motivated to tell the truth because the defendant's actions had humiliated them.† The Appellate Court found, accordingly, that the prosecutorís statements did not suggest a personal belief in the credibility of the witnesses' testimony apart from the evidence but, rather, reasonably flowed from the direct evidence together with inferences the jury could reasonably draw from the evidence.† The Supreme Court granted the defendantís petition for certification to appeal and will consider whether the Appellate Court properly determined that the defendant was not denied his right to a fair trial by the several instances of claimed prosecutorial impropriety.