STATE v. RICHARD SANTOS, JR., SC 19254
Judicial District of New Haven
Criminal; Whether Appellate Court Properly Concluded that Defendant's Right to Confrontation was not Violated by Trial Court's Limited Disclosure of State’s Witness’ Psychiatric Records. The defendant was charged with assault, unlawful restraint and possession of a dangerous instrument in connection with the stabbing of a man at a crack house in Meriden. At trial, testimony was presented that the defendant pulled a knife and stabbed the victim while another man, E.P., prevented the victim from escaping. E.P. was a witness for the state and the defendant moved that the trial court conduct an in camera review of his psychiatric records. After E.P.’s direct testimony had concluded, the trial court disclosed four pages from the records indicating that E.P. suffered from mental disorders. Upon being convicted as charged, the defendant appealed, claiming that his sixth amendment right to confrontation was infringed by the trial court's limited disclosure of E.P.'s psychiatric records, by limitations the court imposed on the scope of E.P.'s cross-examination and by its denial of the defendant's request to enlist the assistance of an expert in interpreting the disclosed records. The Appellate Court (146 Conn. App. 537) concluded that any error was harmless because the state presented a strong case involving multiple independent eyewitnesses who corroborated E.P.'s testimony that the defendant stabbed the victim and because the defendant's testimony was damaging to his case. The court further opined that, as the defendant was able to cross-examine E.P. about his mental illness to some extent and as E.P.'s credibility was effectively impeached many times over, it was exceedingly unlikely that the jury relied uncritically on E.P.'s testimony. The Supreme Court will now consider whether the Appellate Court properly concluded that the defendant's rights under the confrontation clause were not violated by virtue of the trial court's refusal to require disclosure of certain of E.P.’s psychiatric records.