STATE v. NAZRA MUNGROO, SC 18336

Judicial District of Hartford

 

Criminal; Jury Instructions; Whether the Defendant Waived Her Claim of Error Regarding the Trial Court's Jury Instruction on the Element of "Material Fact" in General Statutes 31-290c (a) (2). The state charged the defendant with fraudulent receipt of workers' compensation benefits in violation of General Statutes 31-290c (a) (2). Section 31-290c, in relevant part, provides: "(a) Any person . . . who makes or attempts to make any claim for benefits . . . based in whole or in part upon . . . (2) the intentional nondisclosure of any material fact affecting such claim or the collection of such benefits, shall be guilty of a . . . felony." The defendant was convicted as charged, and she appealed to the Appellate Court. On appeal, she argued, among other things, that the trial court improperly instructed the jury on the element of "material fact" in 31-290 (a) (2). In particular, she claimed that the court broadened the material fact element of the charged offense to include facts that were "merely important," as opposed to facts that would make a difference in the outcome of the case. The Appellate Court (111 Conn. App. 676) found that the defendant had waived her claim of instructional error. In so ruling, it first mentioned that the defendant's claim focused on one word of the jury charge, that is, the word "important," in contravention of the well known standard of review for claims of instructional error, which requires that jury instructions be read as a whole and not judged in artificial isolation from the overall charge. It then stated that the trial court, in preparing its charge to the jury, presented counsel with three drafts of the instructions for comment and objection and that the defendant withdrew her request to charge and agreed with the court's charge. It thus concluded that the defendant had waived any challenge to the jury instructions and declined to discuss her claim further. In this appeal, the Supreme Court will determine whether the Appellate Court properly concluded that the defendant had waived her claim of instructional error.