State v. Geyer

In State v. Geyer, 194 Conn. 1, 480 A.2d 489 (1984), the defendant sought, through a motion in limine, to keep his prior convictions out of evidence because they were highly prejudicial in light of the fact that he was on trial for a narcotics offense identical to one of his prior convictions. Id., at 3-4. The trial court denied the motion in large part but noted that it would deal with the scope of the prosecutor's questions about certain convictions as they arose. Consequently, the defendant testified about his convictions during his direct testimony, and the prosecutor pursued them on cross-examination as well without alerting the court as he had promised. Id., at 4-5. The Court agreed with the defendant's claim that the trial court's ruling was improper and ordered a new trial. In doing so, our Supreme Court noted that "the prudent course for a trial court faced with a decision whether to admit as evidence of credibility prior convictions for crimes that do not directly reflect on credibility is to allow the state to mention that the defendant was convicted of an unspecified crime or crimes carrying a penalty of more than one year, at a certain time and place. The defendant's character, from which the jury might draw an inference of dishonesty, would thus be sufficiently impugned without the extraordinary prejudice that sometimes follows when the prior crime is specifically named." Id., at 16. The Court did not rule that the use of the words "felony" or "felonies" was inappropriate when referring to a defendant's prior convictions for such offenses. In fact, the Court in Geyer agreed with the defendant's claim that the trial court "should have permitted the state to mention only that he had been convicted of unspecified felonies on those occasions." State v. Geyer, supra, 194 Conn. at 5.