State v. Preyer

In State v. Preyer, 198 Conn. 190, 502 A.2d 858 (1985), the defendant failed to request a charge on an applicable affirmative defense that was supported by the evidence. On appeal, the defendant argued that "a trial court always has an independent obligation, as a matter of law, to charge on any theory of defense for which there is a foundation in the evidence." Id., at 196. The Preyer court did not agree and concluded that "there is no basis, in the law of this state, for the defendant's broad claim that a trial court has an independent obligation to instruct the jury on the affirmative defense . . . if the evidence at trial would suffice to support such a charge." Id. The Court addressed an unpreserved claim alleging that the trial court had improperly instructed a jury as to the affirmative defense of cohabitation in a sexual assault case. The defendant raised the broad issue of whether the trial court has an affirmative duty to charge the jury, sua sponte, on every defense theory for which there is a foundation in the evidence adduced at trial. Id., at 196. The court stated: "While the constitutional law of due process is implicated by a trial court's failure to instruct the jury on the essential elements of the offense on which the conviction rests . . . we have in the past found no constitutional infirmity in failure to charge on such defenses as entrapment . . . emotional disturbance . . . or alibi." Id., at 197. The court determined that "nothing in the circumstances of the case suggests that a different rule should apply for the defense of cohabitation." Id. The Court has since applied the "rule" from Preyer to encompass misinstruction on an affirmative defense.