State v. Murphy

In State v. Murphy, 254 Conn. 561, 757 A.2d 1125 (2000), the state charged the defendant with, inter alia, a violation of 53a-183. At trial, the state introduced several letters into evidence to establish the defendant's intent. Id., 569. "At no time did the prosecutor imply that the defendant should be convicted based upon the content of his communications; rather, the prosecutor argued only that those communications were evidence of the defendant's intent to harass, annoy or alarm." Id., 570. On appeal, the defendant challenged his conviction under 53a-183, contending "that his conviction was predicated upon the content of the letter that he sent to the victim rather than his conduct in using the mail to harass the victim." Id., 567. Our Supreme Court rejected the argument and concluded that "the fact finder may consider the language used in the communication in determining whether the state has proven the elements of the offense, namely, that the defendant intended to harass, annoy or alarm, and that he did so in a manner likely to cause annoyance or alarm. . . . ('the First Amendment . . . does not prohibit the evidentiary use of speech to establish the elements of a crime or to prove motive or intent'). Indeed, the use of such evidence may be 'indispensable to a proper determination of whether the statutory requirement of intent to harass has been proven.'" Id., 569.