State v. Toccaline

In State v. Toccaline, 258 Conn. 542, 783 A.2d 450 (2001) the victim's therapist "testified that the victim had described instances of sexual contact with the defendant. He also stated his opinion that the victim had suffered sexual abuse perpetrated by the defendant. Finally, the therapist testified that it was his opinion that the victim's testimony was truthful, based, in part, on the consistency of her accusations." State v. Toccaline, supra, 258 Conn. at 548; see also id. at 548-49 n.8. In Toccaline, there was medical evidence that the victim had been abused, and evidence of depression and change in the victim's character. State v. Toccaline, supra, 258 Conn. at 552 n.13. The Court held: "Plain error review is reserved for truly extraordinary situations where the existence of the error is so obvious that it affects the fairness and integrity of and public confidence in the judicial proceedings. . . . Plain error is a doctrine that should be invoked sparingly. . . . A party cannot prevail under plain error unless it has demonstrated that the failure to grant relief will result in manifest injustice." The Court held that an unpreserved claim alleging that an expert witness improperly testified regarding the credibility of a victim fails under the second prong of State v. Golding. Id. at 550. There, a licensed clinical social worker testified that it was his opinion that a sexual assault victim's testimony was truthful. Id. at 548. The Court stated that "in essence, the defendant attempts to put a constitutional tag on a nonconstitutional evidentiary ruling. . . . We previously have stated that the admissibility of evidence is a matter of state law and unless there is a resultant denial of fundamental fairness or the denial of a specific constitutional right, no constitutional issue is involved. . . . The trial court's exercise of discretion in admitting expert testimony is not to be disturbed unless it has been abused or the error is clear and involves a misconception of the law. . . . The errors claimed by the defendant in the present case are simply evidentiary in nature." Id.