STATE v. LUIS RODRIGUEZ, SC 18945
Judicial District of Hartford
Criminal; Whether Trial Court Properly Admitted Testimony of Victim's Attorney. The defendant was charged with assaulting Angel Salvador Diaz. At the defendant's trial, the state sought to introduce the testimony of Diaz. The trial court appointed an attorney, Aaron Romano, to advise Diaz regarding the potential criminal penalties that he might face as a result of his testimony in light of the fact that Diaz had been living in the United States illegally and had used a false identity. Romano ultimately negotiated an agreement with the state that provided Diaz with immunity from prosecution and the opportunity to obtain legal resident status in exchange for testifying against the defendant. Following Diaz' testimony, the state called Romano as a witness. The defendant objected on the ground that Romano's testimony was irrelevant and would improperly bolster Diaz' credibility. The trial court disagreed, ruling that Romano's testimony was relevant to explain the purpose and scope of the immunity agreement. After the defendant was convicted of assault in the first degree, he appealed, arguing that the trial court improperly admitted Romano's testimony. He maintained that Romano's testimony was irrelevant because Diaz had presented testimony regarding the circumstances surrounding the negotiation of the agreement and because the agreement itself had been admitted into evidence. He also argued that the state's sole purpose in calling Romano as a witness was to improperly portray Diaz as a sympathetic victim who did not even know enough to protect his own right against self-incrimination. The Appellate Court (133 Conn. App. 721) rejected the defendant's arguments, deciding that because Diaz had testified pursuant to an immunity agreement, the jury was entitled to know the purpose and terms of the agreement. Romano's testimony concerning the reasons for his appointment and the details of the immunity agreement, the Appellate Court opined, was necessary to assist the jury in understanding Diaz' presence as a witness and in evaluating his credibility, especially since Diaz was extensively questioned regarding his use of a false identity. Accordingly, the Appellate Court affirmed the defendant's conviction. In this appeal, the Supreme Court will determine whether the trial court properly admitted Romano's testimony.