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Criminal Jury Instructions

Criminal Jury Instructions Home

2.6-10  Third Party Culpability

New, June 13, 2008

There has been evidence that a third party, not the defendant, committed the crime[s] with which the defendant is charged.  This evidence is not intended to prove the guilt of the third party, but is part of the total evidence for you to consider.  The burden remains on the state to prove each and every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt.

It is up to you, and to you alone, to determine whether any of this evidence, if believed, tends to directly connect a third party to the crime[s] with which the defendant is charged.  If after a full and fair consideration and comparison of all the evidence, you have left in your minds a reasonable doubt indicating that the alleged third party, <insert name of third party>, may be responsible for the crime[s] the defendant is charged with committing, then it would be your duty to render a verdict of not guilty as to the accused, <insert name of defendant>.

Commentary

In State v. Arroyo, 284 Conn. 597, 608-609 (2007), the Court considered for the first time "the standard to be applied to a defendant's request for a jury instruction on third party culpability evidence when such evidence has been introduced."  After reviewing the rules governing the admission of such evidence, the Court concluded that the same standard should apply when determining whether a defendant is entitled to a jury instruction on third party culpability.  "[I]f the evidence pointing to a third party's culpability, taken together and considered in the light most favorable to the defendant, establishes a direct connection between the third party and the charged offense, rather than merely raising a bare suspicion that another could have committed the crime, a trial court has a duty to submit an appropriate charge to the jury."  Id., 610.  "[E]vidence that establishes a direct connection between a third party and the charged offense is relevant to the central question before the jury, namely, whether a reasonable doubt exists as to whether the defendant committed the offense.  Evidence that would raise only a bare suspicion that a third party, rather than the defendant, committed the charged offense would not be relevant to the jury's determination."  Id., 609-10.  See State v. Berger, 249 Conn. 218, 234-38 (1999) (discussing the relationship of third party culpability to reasonable doubt in a case in which the state's theory was that the defendant and the third party acted together).

On the admissibility of third party culpability, see State v. Corley, 106 Conn. App. 682, 686-91, cert. denied, 287 Conn. 909 (2008) (strong physical resemblance between defendant and third party); State v. Guess, 44 Conn. App. 790, 811 (1997) (motive of third party); State v. Alvarez, 216 Conn. 301, 304 (1990) (relevancy and hearsay considerations); State v. Delossantos, 211 Conn. 258, 270, cert. denied, 493 U.S. 866 (1989) (third party's culpability not inconsistent with defendant's guilt); State v. Echols, 203 Conn. 385, 392 (1987) (misidentification of defendant by victim of another crime).
 


 

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