Judicial District of New Haven


      Criminal; Batson Challenges; Prosecutorial Impropriety; Whether Prosecutor's use of a Peremptory Challenge to Excuse an African-American Venireperson was not Based on Race-Neutral Reasons in Violation of Batson v. Kentucky; Whether Prosecutor Engaged in Impropriety During his Closing and Rebuttal Arguments.  The state accused the defendant of sexually assaulting the minor complainant.  During jury selection, the prosecutor attempted to exclude an African-American venireperson by exercising a peremptory challenge.  Pursuant to Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986), the defendant claimed that the prosecutor's use of the peremptory challenge was not based on race-neutral reasons.  In response to the Batson challenge, the prosecutor stated that the venireperson (1) did not provide open answers to the prosecutor's questions; (2) had previously served on a jury; (3) had trouble explaining himself to the prosecutor; (4) had difficulty understanding certain criminal law concepts, such as the presumption of innocence; and (5) had only achieved a tenth grade education.  After acknowledging that the defendant's Batson challenge presented a close question, the trial court determined that the prosecutor's reasons for attempting to excuse the venireperson were not pretextual.  After the close of the evidence, the prosecutor delivered his closing and rebuttal arguments, during which he stated, among other things, that (1) the complainant had testified truthfully and had no motive to lie about the sexual assault allegations; (2) the jurors should put themselves in the place of a young teenager such as the complainant when evaluating the behavior that the complainant engaged in after the alleged assault occurred; and (3) the defendant was much larger than the complainant.  The defendant objected to the prosecutor's arguments, contending, among other things, that his comments regarding the truthfulness of the complainant's testimony constituted an improper attempt to bolster her credibility.  The court overruled the objection, and the defendant was thereafter convicted of risk of injury to a minor.  In this appeal, the defendant argues that the prosecutor's use of a peremptory challenge to excuse an African-American venireperson was not based on race-neutral reasons.  He also claims that the prosecutor engaged in impropriety during his closing and rebuttal arguments by expressing his personal opinion regarding the complainant's credibility, by appealing to the jury's emotions, by arguing facts not in evidence and by violating the "golden rule" that precludes attorneys from urging jurors to put themselves in a particular party's place.