STATE v. PAUL B., SC 19197
Judicial District of New Britain
Criminal; Risk of Injury; Whether Child Victims’ Out-of-Court Statements Properly Admitted as Age Inappropriate Knowledge; Whether Police Officer’s Statements Summarizing Victims’ Allegations Properly Admitted to Provide Context for Defendant’s Admission; Prosecutorial Impropriety. The defendant was convicted of two counts of risk of injury in connection with allegations that he sexually abused two boys. At trial, a licensed clinical social worker who interviewed the victims testified that they exhibited age inappropriate sexual knowledge—one of the factors she looked for when interviewing children who have disclosed sexual abuse—and she gave examples of some of the specific sexual acts that they described to her. The trial court admitted the victims’ out-of-court statements over the defendant's hearsay objection, explaining that they were not being offered for the truth of the matter asserted but rather as examples of age inappropriate knowledge. The court also gave a limiting instruction to that effect. In addition, a police officer who interviewed the defendant testified that when she told him what the victims had disclosed about his conduct, the defendant responded “well, if the boys say I did that, then maybe I did. I just don’t remember.” The trial court allowed the officer to testify about the victims' statements to provide context for the defendant's admission. The defendant appealed to the Appellate Court (143 Conn. App. 691), claiming that the victims’ out-of-court statements, which were admitted through the testimony of the clinical social worker and the interviewing officer, constituted inadmissible hearsay. Additionally, he claimed that the state engaged in prosecutorial impropriety during closing argument by using the victims' out-of-court statements as substantive evidence of his guilt when those statements had not been admitted for that purpose. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment, upholding the trial court’s evidentiary rulings and declining to find that there had been prosecutorial impropriety. The Supreme Court will decide whether the Appellate Court correctly determined that the trial court properly admitted the victims’ out-of-court statements as age inappropriate knowledge of the victims and, if not, whether the error was harmful in light of the limiting instruction given by the trial court. It will also consider whether that court properly determined that the ruling regarding the police officer’s testimony was proper and, if not, whether the error was harmful. Finally, the court will review the Appellate Court’s determination that the state did not engage in prosecutorial impropriety during closing argument.