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Criminal Jury Instructions

Criminal Jury Instructions Home

2.3-2  Evidence of Intent

Revised to December 1, 2007

What a person's intention was is usually a matter to be determined by inference.  No person is able to testify that (he/she) looked into another's mind and saw therein a certain knowledge or a certain purpose or intention to do harm to another.  Because direct evidence of the defendant's state of mind is rarely available, intent is generally proved by circumstantial evidence.  The only way a jury can ordinarily determine what a person's intention was at any given time is by determining what the person's conduct was and what the circumstances were surrounding that conduct and from that infer what (his/her) intention was.

To draw such an inference is the proper function of a jury, provided of course that the inference drawn complies with the standards for inferences as explained in connection with my instruction on circumstantial evidence.  The inference is not a necessary one.  You are not required to infer a particular intent from the defendant's conduct or statements, but it is an inference that you may draw if you find it is reasonable and logical.  I again remind you that the burden of proving intent beyond a reasonable doubt is on the state. 

[<If the defendant has testified about (his/her) intent:>

In this case, the defendant has testified as to (his/her) intent.  You should consider my earlier instruction on evaluating the defendant's testimony as you would any other witness.] 

[<If evidence of motive has been introduced:>

Evidence of motive, or the lack of it, may also be considered by you in determining the issue of intent.  <See Motive, Instruction 2.6-2.>]

Commentary

In State v. Orta, 66 Conn. App. 783, 793-94 (2001), cert. denied, 259 Conn. 907 (2002), the defendant claimed that the portion of the jury instruction on intent unduly emphasized the absence of the defendant's testimony during trial and amounted to an improper comment on his failure to testify.  In concluding that the trial court's instruction was not improper, the Appellate Court reasoned:  "We are not persuaded that the phrases, '[a] man may take the [witness] stand and testify directly as to what his intention was,' and 'aside from the man's own testimony,' even remotely amount to a comment on the defendant's election not to testify, especially in view of the court's earlier instruction that no negative inference should be drawn against the defendant on the basis of his election not to testify."  Id., 794.
 


 

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