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Criminal Jury Instructions

Criminal Jury Instructions Home

2.6-2  Motive

Revised to December 1, 2007

The law does not require that the state, in a criminal case, prove a motive, because it is not an element of the crime.  It is not necessary for the state to prove what reason the defendant may have had for committing the crime charged.

Because crimes are generally committed for some motive, evidence of a motive may tend to prove the guilt of a defendant.  In the same manner, if there appears no adequate motive on the part of the defendant to commit the crime, that may tend to raise a reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the defendant.  <Identify the evidence introduced as to motive.>

If the existence of a motive can be reasonably inferred, that may tend to prove the defendant 's guilt.  If no motive can be inferred, it may or may not raise a reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the defendant.  If the absence of a motive does not raise a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty, then the fact that the state has not proved what the defendant's motive was does not prevent you from returning a verdict of guilty.

Commentary

"While evidence of motive does not establish an element of the crime charged . . . such evidence is both desirable and important. . . .  It strengthens the state's case when an adequate motive can be shown. . . .  Evidence tending to show the existence or nonexistence of motive often forms an important factor in the inquiry as to the guilt or innocence of the defendant. . . .  This factor is to be weighed by the jury along with the other evidence in the case. . . .  The role motive plays in any particular case necessarily varies with the strength of the other evidence in the case.  The other evidence may be such as to justify a conviction without any motive being shown.  It may be so weak that without a disclosed motive the guilt of the accused would be clouded by a reasonable doubt."  (Internal quotation marks omitted.)  State v. Wargo, supra, 255 Conn. 140 n.24.

"[I]f the evidence warrants it and if an accurate and timely request to charge is made, the trial court must instruct the jury that a lack of evidence on motive may tend to raise a reasonable doubt."  State v. Pinnock, 220 Conn. 765, 790 (1992).  A proper instruction informs the jury that:  "(1) motive is not an element of the offense, and the state is not required to prove or show motive; (2) an absence of evidence of motive may tend to raise a reasonable doubt; and (3) even a total lack of evidence of motive would not necessarily raise a reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the defendant so long as there is other evidence produced that is sufficient to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt."  Id., 792.  See also State v. Malave, 47 Conn. App. 597, 611-12 (1998), aff'd, 250 Conn. 722 (1999), cert. denied, 528 U.S. 1170, 120 S. Ct. 1195, 145 L. Ed. 2d 1099 (2000) (trial court properly refused to instruct the jury as to the defendant's lack of motive to commit the crimes, evidence having been introduced from which the jury could have inferred that there was enmity between the defendant and one of the victims).

If evidence of prior misconduct is admitted for the purpose of showing motive, the court should also give an instruction limiting the jury's use of the evidence.  See State v. Feliciano, 256 Conn. 429, 451 n.11 (2001), in which the court admitted evidence of the defendant's robbery in support of his drug habit for the limited purpose of demonstrating that the defendant had a motive for the robbery that led to the victim's murder.  See Evidence Admitted for a Limited Purpose, Instruction 2.6-8.
 


 

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