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Criminal Jury Instructions

Criminal Jury Instructions Home

2.5-2  Accomplice Testimony

Revised to December 1, 2007 (modified April 23, 2010)

In weighing the testimony of an accomplice who is a self-confessed criminal, you should consider that fact.  It may be that you would not believe a person who has committed a crime as readily as you would believe a person of good character.  In weighing the testimony of an accomplice who has not yet been sentenced or whose case has not yet been disposed of or who has not been charged with offenses in which the state has evidence, you should keep in mind that (he/she) may in (his/her) own mind be looking for some favorable treatment in the sentence or disposition of (his/her) own case or hoping not to be arrested.  Therefore, (he/she) may have such an interest in the outcome of this case that (his/her) testimony may have been colored by that fact.  Therefore, you must look with particular care at the testimony of an accomplice and scrutinize it very carefully before you accept it.

There are many offenses that are of such a character that the only persons capable of giving useful testimony are those who are themselves implicated in the crime.  It is for you to decide what credibility you will give to a witness who has admitted (his/her) involvement and criminal wrongdoing, whether you will believe or disbelieve the testimony of a person who by (his/her) own admission has committed or contributed to the crime charged by the state here.  Like all other questions of credibility, this is a question you must decide based on all the evidence presented to you.1
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1 This instruction is derived from State v. Marra, 222 Conn. 506, 524-25 (1992).  It may be inappropriate to include in the "accomplice testimony" instruction that "[e]ach accomplice's testimony is an admission by him against his own natural interest in not incriminating himself" and therefore may be "evidence of his testimony's reliability."  Id.

Commentary

Generally, the court should not instruct the jury on the credibility of a particular witness, but the Supreme Court has recognized three exceptions:  the complaining witness, an accomplice, and an informant.  See State v. Patterson, 276 Conn. 452, 470 (2005); State v. Ortiz, 252 Conn. 533, 561-62 (2000).

Under the accomplice exception, "where it is warranted by the evidence, it is the court's duty to caution the jury to scrutinize carefully the testimony if the jury finds that the witness intentionally assisted in the commission, or if he assisted or aided or abetted in the commission, of the offense with which the defendant is charged."  (Emphasis in original; internal quotation marks omitted.)  Id., 562. A defendant is not entitled to an instruction on accomplice testimony unless there is sufficient evidence that the witness was, in fact, an accomplice.  State v. Stevenson, 53 Conn. App. 551, 574-77, cert. denied, 250 Conn. 917 (1999); State v. Sanchez, 50 Conn. App. 145, 153-59, cert. denied, 247 Conn. 922 (1998).
 

 

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