State v. Just

In State v. Just, 185 Conn. 339, 347-48, 441 A.2d 98 (1981) the state called three of the defendant's accomplices who had participated in the crimes alleged, and each testified at length on direct and on cross-examination and implicated himself and the defendant. State v. Just, supra, 185 Conn. at 343. Two of the witnesses testified, without objection by the defense, about their convictions of the crimes for which the defendant was on trial. Id., 185 Conn. at 343-44. The third witness also testified as to his convictions in federal and state court for the certain crimes connected with the incident, to which the defense raised a general objection. Id., 185 Conn. at 345-46. The court rejected the defendant's claim that the trial court improperly allowed "the state to prove his guilt by proving the convictions of alleged co-conspirators." Id., 185 Conn. at 343. In doing so, the court reasoned that "any prejudice resulting from the testimony of the pleas was rendered harmless when the guilt of the accomplices was established by their own testimony which also implicated the defendant." Id., 185 Conn. at 349. The court further reasoned that "the purpose of the witness' testimony was to give the facts and circumstances of the crimes. The testimony as to their pleas of guilty gave the circumstances under which they were testifying, and their status with regard to the charge, and went to their credibility as witnesses for the state." Id. The court also noted several other factors that mitigated against finding harm, among which was the absence of any evidence that the state emphasized the witness' guilty pleas during final argument. Id., 185 Conn. at 350. Additionally, the court noted that defense counsel neither objected to the challenged testimony nor requested a curative instruction, possibly as a matter of trial strategy. Id., 185 Conn. at 351.