STATE v. CHYWON WRIGHT, SC 19233/19234
Judicial District of Waterbury
Criminal; Whether Cross-Examination of Victim Reasonably Limited Under Rape Shield Statute; Whether Appellate Court Properly Applied Vacatur Remedy of State v. Polanco to Double Jeopardy Violation Arising From Convictions of Multiple Conspiracies Arising from a Single Agreement. The defendant was convicted of aggravated sexual assault in the first degree, conspiracy to commit aggravated sexual assault in the first degree, conspiracy to commit kidnapping in the first degree, assault in the third degree, and conspiracy to commit assault in the third degree. His convictions stemmed from an incident in which he and several of his fellow gang members sexually assaulted the victim in a vacant apartment. On appeal, the defendant claimed that the trial court violated his rights to confront his accuser and to present a defense by refusing to permit him to present evidence that the victim was a prostitute, that she had sex with one of the gang members with the expectation of being paid just prior to the incident at the apartment, and that she had expressed a willingness to have sex with several men for money. The defendant claimed that the evidence was relevant to his defense that the victim had engaged in consensual sex with him and that she had fabricated the sexual assault charges as a means of getting even with the men when she did not get paid. The defendant claimed that the evidence was admissible under the rape shield statute, General Statutes § 54-86f (4), which provides that no evidence of the sexual conduct of the victim may be admissible in a sexual assault case unless it is “otherwise so relevant and material to a critical issue in the case that excluding it would violate the defendant’s constitutional rights.” The Appellate Court (144 Conn. App. 731) rejected the defendant’s claim, finding that, while the trial court did not permit the defendant to cross-examine the victim concerning those issues on the ground that such questions were prohibited under the rape shield statute, the defendant was not otherwise precluded from presenting evidence tending to establish that the victim was a prostitute or that she had engaged in prior sexual conduct. The Appellate Court agreed with the defendant, however, that the trial court violated the double jeopardy clause in convicting and sentencing him on three counts of conspiracy arising from a single agreement. In determining the appropriate remedy, the court looked to State v. Polanco, 308 Conn. 242 (2013), which held that when a defendant has been convicted of greater and lesser included offenses in violation of double jeopardy, the trial court must vacate the conviction for the lesser offense rather than merge the convictions. The Appellate Court held that the appropriate remedy here was to remand to the trial court with direction to vacate two of the conspiracy convictions and resentence the defendant on the remaining conviction. Both the defendant and the state appeal. In the defendant’s appeal, the Supreme Court will consider whether the Appellate Court properly concluded that the trial court reasonably limited the defendant’s cross-examination of the victim under the rape shield statute. The issue in the state’s appeal is whether the Appellate Court properly applied the vacatur remedy of State v. Polanco to multiple punishments resulting from the defendant’s three conspiracy convictions arising from a single agreement.