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Criminal Jury Instructions

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3.3-2  Renunciation of Criminal Purpose (Conspiracy) -- § 53a-48 (b)

Revised to December 1, 2007

There has been some evidence presented with regard to the defense of renunciation of criminal purpose.  The defendant claims that although (he/she) admittedly participated in the original conspiratorial agreement, (he/she) nonetheless renounced or withdrew from it, and therefore should be acquitted.  The statute defining this defense reads in pertinent part as follows:

it shall be a defense to a charge of conspiracy that the actor, after conspiring to commit a crime, thwarted the success of the conspiracy, under circumstances manifesting a complete and voluntary renunciation of (his/her) criminal purpose.

If the renunciation or withdrawal takes place before an overt act has been committed, the renouncing conspirator has not actually become a culpable part of a criminal conspiracy.  On the other hand, if one or more overt acts has already occurred, (he/she) has already committed the crime of conspiracy and cannot be heard to say that (he/she) no longer wished to be considered part of it.  Once (he/she) is shown to have participated in the initial agreement or common purpose, the defendant is presumed to continue in such capacity until (he/she) clearly and unequivocally disassociates (himself/herself) from it.

The defendant has no burden of proof whatsoever with respect to this defense.  The state has the burden of disproving this defense beyond a reasonable doubt.  In other words, the defendant is entitled to an acquittal if the state fails to disprove beyond a reasonable doubt: 1) the defendant voluntarily and completely renounced (his/her) criminal purpose; and 2) in such voluntary and complete renunciation, (he/she) thwarted the success of the conspiracy; that is, (he/she) actually prevented the commission of the crime that was the object of the conspiracy.

Commentary

For the defense of renunciation to be available, it is important that the crime contemplated by the alleged conspiracy was not committed.  This is a change from the common-law doctrine of withdrawal that required only communication of the withdrawal to the coconspirators.  State v. Klein, 97 Conn. 321 (1922).

A conspirator may defend on the ground of renunciation and abandonment when a crime is committed after the withdrawal if the crime actually committed was not the crime toward which the conspiracy was directed.  People v. Agron, 10 N.Y.2d 130, 218 N.Y.S.2d 625 (1961), cert. denied, 368 U.S. 922, 82 S. Ct. 245, 7 L. Ed.2d 136 (1961).

See generally State v. Richardson, 40 Conn. App. 526, 532-33, cert. denied, 237 Conn. 905 (1996), cert. denied, 519 U.S. 902, 117 S. Ct. 257, 136 L. Ed. 2d 183 (1996) (discussing "thwarting the success of the conspiracy").
 


 

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