STATE v. ROGER RUFFIN, SC 19206
Judicial District of Hartford
Criminal; Prosecutorial Impropriety; Whether Prosecutor Improperly Commented on Defendant's Failure to Testify. The defendant was convicted of risk of injury to a child and two counts of sexual assault. During closing arguments at trial, the prosecutor stated that no person's testimony conflicted with the victim's testimony or gave the jury any reason to disbelieve the victim's testimony about the sexual abuse. The defendant appealed, arguing, among other things, that his due process rights were violated because the prosecutor improperly commented on his failure to testify during closing arguments. The Appellate Court (144 Conn. App. 387) affirmed the judgment of conviction, rejecting the defendant’s claim that the prosecutor improperly commented on his failure to testify. It concluded that the prosecutor did not directly discuss the defendant or refer to his failure to testify during closing arguments but, instead, commented on the credibility of the victim's testimony. It found that because the prosecutor's statements neither directly referred to the defendant nor triggered an objection from defense counsel, the statements were not of such character that the jury would naturally and necessarily take them to be comments on the defendant's failure to testify. In this appeal, the Supreme Court will decide whether the Appellate Court properly held that the prosecutor did not comment on the defendant's failure to testify. The defendant claims that the prosecutor indirectly suggested that he was the only person who could supply testimony that would conflict with the victim's testimony by stating that the alleged assaults happened when he and the victim were alone. He argues that the prosecutor's comments regarding the lack of conflicting testimony can therefore only be construed as comments regarding his failure to testify.