The mission of the Connecticut Judicial Branch is to serve the interests of justice and the public by resolving matters brought before it in a fair, timely, efficient and open manner.

Criminal Law Supreme Court Opinions

by Booth, George

 

SC19809, SC19811 - State v. Leniart (Capital felony; murder; certification from Appellate Court; "

Following a jury trial, the defendant, George Michael Leniart, was convicted of murder in violation of General Statutes § 53a-54a (a) and three counts of capital felony in violation of General Statutes (Rev. to 1995) § 53a-54b (5), (7), and (9), as amended by Public Acts 1995, No. 95-16, § 4. The Appellate Court reversed the judgment of conviction and remanded the case for a new trial, holding that the trial court improperly excluded (1) a videotape that depicted a police officer interviewing a crucial prosecution witness prior to the administration of a polygraph examination, and (2) certain expert testimony proffered by the defendant regarding the reliability of jailhouse informant testimony. State v. Leniart, 166 Conn. App. 142, 146–47, 140 A.3d 1026 (2016). The Appellate Court also considered and rejected the defendant's claim regarding the sufficiency of the underlying evidence. Id. We granted both the state's and the defendant's petitions for certification to appeal.

In its certified appeal, the state challenges the conclusion of the Appellate Court that the videotape and expert testimony were improperly excluded. In his appeal, the defendant contends that he is entitled to a judgment of acquittal because, under the common-law corpus delicti rule, the state failed to set forth sufficient evidence, independent of the defendant's own admissions, to establish that the alleged victim was, in fact, dead.

We reverse the judgment of the Appellate Court with respect to the state's appeal and affirm the judgment with respect to the defendant's appeal. Specifically, we conclude that (1) although the defendant's corpus delicti claim is not merely evidentiary and, therefore, is reviewable on appeal, the Appellate Court correctly concluded that there was sufficient evidence to support the conviction, (2) although the Appellate Court correctly concluded that the trial court's exclusion of the videotape was improper, the exclusion of that evidence was harmless, and (3) the Appellate Court incorrectly concluded that the trial court had abused its discretion in precluding the expert testimony proffered by the defendant.")

SC19841 - State v. Robert H. (Risk of injury to child; violation of probation; certification from Appellate Court; "The common-law corpus delicti rule "prohibits a prosecutor from proving the [fact of a transgression] based solely on a defendant's extrajudicial statements." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Leniart, 333 Conn. ___, ___, ___ A.3d ___ (2019). Following a jury trial, the defendant in the present case, Robert H., was convicted of two counts of risk of injury to a child, in violation of General Statutes § 53-21 (a) (1), arising from two alleged incidents of sexual misconduct. On appeal, he argued before the Appellate Court that the only evidence that he committed the second alleged act of misconduct were statements he made to the police and, therefore, that his conviction on that count violated the corpus delicti rule.

The judgment of the Appellate Court is reversed and the case is remanded to that court for further proceedings in accordance with this opinion.")