STATE v. FELIX R., SC 19278

Judicial District of New Haven

 

†††† †Criminal; Prosecutorial Impropriety; Whether the Appellate Court Properly Reversed the Defendantís Convictions Based upon Prosecutorial Improprieties.† The defendant was convicted of various sexual offenses in connection with the sexual abuse of his minor daughter (the complainant).† On appeal, the defendant argued that the prosecutor made certain remarks during closing arguments that constituted prosecutorial impropriety that deprived him of a fair trial.† The Appellate Court (147 Conn. App. 206) agreed and reversed the defendantís convictions.† The court determined that the prosecutor improperly told the jury that after the complainant disclosed the alleged sexual abuse, she faced certain hardships, which included enduring intrusive physical examinations and medical tests, suffering a miscarriage, and being placed in foster care.† It also decided that the prosecutor improperly argued that the complainant had to appear in court to face the defendant and to provide testimony about highly personal matters as a direct result of the things that the defendant had done to her.† The Appellate Court opined that, in making those remarks, the prosecutor not only sought to invoke sympathy for the complainant and anger toward the defendant, he also provided his opinion that the defendant was in fact guilty of committing the crimes with which he was charged.† It further determined that, in blaming the defendant for the fact that the complainant was required to testify at trial, the prosecutor directly assaulted the defendantís constitutional rights to confront the witnesses against him at a public trial and to require the state to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.† The court then went on to conclude that the prosecutorís improper remarks deprived the defendant of his due process right to a fair trial because (1) the prosecutorís remarks were not invited by the defendant; (2) the improprieties included some of the last words that the jury had heard from the prosecutor; (3) the prosecutorís reference to what the defendant had done to the complainant was central to the critical issue in the case, namely, whether the defendant had sexually abused the complainant; (4) the stateís case was only moderately strong in that it rested on the testimony of the complainant, which was not corroborated by any independent evidence; and (5) the improprieties were severe because they infringed upon the defendantís rights to present a defense and to confront his accuser at a public trial.† In this appeal, the Supreme Court will determine whether the Appellate Court properly reversed the defendantís convictions based upon prosecutorial improprieties.