Judicial District of Fairfield


Criminal; Whether Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Counsel was Properly Denied; Whether Defendant was Properly Prevented from Cross-Examining Witness About Prior Speeding Convictions, License Suspensions and Citizenship Status. The defendant was convicted of first degree reckless endangerment as a result of an incident in which the motorcycle that he was operating at an excessive rate of speed struck a motor vehicle, resulting in the death of the defendant's passenger. The defendant appealed from his conviction, claiming that the trial court's denial of his request to represent himself was improper because the court failed to canvass him before denying his request. The Appellate Court (118 Conn. App. 628) rejected the defendant's claim. The Appellate Court noted that, in his motion to dismiss counsel, the defendant requested that he either be permitted to represent himself or be appointed new counsel or standby counsel. The Appellate Court further noted that although the defendant stated that he was willing to represent himself, his motion suggested that he was open to various forms of representation. The Appellate Court concluded that, in the absence of evidence that the defendant had made a clear choice of representation, it could not conclude that the defendant clearly and unequivocally requested to represent himself. The Appellate Court did not reach the question of whether the trial court improperly failed to canvass the defendant, as the requirement that a court canvass a defendant is not triggered until it has been established that the defendant clearly and unequivocally requested to represent himself. The defendant also claimed on appeal that the trial court improperly restricted his cross-examination of a witness who was involved in the accident by prohibiting him from questioning the witness about his prior speeding convictions and license suspensions and about his status as a United States citizen. The Appellate Court disagreed, noting that the trial court's ruling that the speeding convictions and license suspensions were not admissible in cases of motor vehicle accidents as evidence of character or fault was consistent with 4-5 of the Connecticut Code of Evidence, which prohibits the admission of certain evidence to show bad character or criminal tendencies. The Appellate Court also agreed with the trial court that the witness' citizenship status was irrelevant to a motive to lie about the accident. In this appeal, the Supreme Court is presented with the issues of whether the Appellate Court properly determined that (1) the trial court properly denied the defendant's motion to dismiss counsel; and (2) the trial court did not improperly restrict cross-examination of a state's witness by the defendant.