State v. Clark

In State v. Clark (2002) 260 Conn. 813 801 A.2d 718, the issue was whether the jury could consider the likely impact of a witness's consumption of marijuana on his ability to perceive events in the absence of any direct testimony, expert or lay, of the drug's effects on him. The witness said he had smoked five marijuana cigarettes within the space of perhaps 90 minutes prior to observing a gunfight in which he was not directly involved. (801 A.2d at pp. 720-723.) In concluding the jury was allowed to consider his marijuana consumption in assessing his reliability, the court relied on the general rule that a jury is ordinarily permitted to infer, solely based on the fact that an intoxicating drug was ingested, that the witness's perceptions might be affected. (Id. at p. 725.) Regarding the issue of common knowledge, the court noted: "We recognize that, because it is an illegal substance, it may be that many jurors may have no firsthand knowledge regarding the effects of marijuana on one's ability to perceive and to relate events. At the same time, we cannot blink at the reality that, despite its illegality, because of its widespread use, many people know of the potential effects of marijuana, either through personal experience or through the experience of family members or friends. The ability to draw inferences about the impairing effects of marijuana, like alcohol, however, is based upon common knowledge, experience and common sense, not necessarily on personal experience. The unfortunate prevalence of marijuana use, coupled with the substantial effort to educate all segments of the public regarding its dangers, underscores the reality that the likely effects of smoking five marijuana cigarettes in a short period of time before an incident are within the ken of the average juror." (Id. at pp. 725-726.) The issue in Clark was whether a jury could draw on common knowledge to evaluate the effect of the consumption of a substantial quantity of marijuana in a relatively short time on a witness's ability to perceive events accurately.