Michael T. v. Commissioner of Correction
The Connecticut Supreme Court has never adopted a bright line rule that an expert witness for the defense is necessary in every sexual assault case. A four year old girl, living with her mother, brothers and Michael T., was diagnosed with trichomonas, a parasitic protozoa that infects the urinary tract or prostate of males and the vagina or urinary tract of females. Suspecting sexual abuse, the nurse reported it to the Department of Children and Families. The family was tested and only the child's mother tested positive for trichomonas. Michael T. moved out and went untested. The child denied that anyone touched her private parts until a year later. After a "good touch-bad touch" presentation in kindergarten, she reported that Michael T. had touched her inappropriately. Following a jury trial, Michael T. was convicted of sexual assault in the first degree and risk of injury to a child. He filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The habeas court granted the petition, in part, finding that the petitioner's trial counsel had rendered ineffective assistance by failing to present expert testimony on trichomonas and the reliability of the child's belated disclosure. A majority of the Appellate Court affirmed the judgment based on counsel's failure to present expert testimony on trichomonas. The commissioner of correction appealed. A majority of the Supreme Court reversed the judgment concluding that the petitioner was not prejudiced by any alleged deficient performance of trial counsel. The case was remanded to the Appellate Court to consider the remaining issue on belated disclosure. The majority found it obvious that the jury credited the testimony of the child over that of the petitioner. The essential point of presenting expert testimony would have been to establish that trichomonas could be contracted through nonsexual means and, perhaps, to offer examples of nonsexual transmissions. The majority found that trial counsel established these points sufficiently through cross-examination of the state's experts. Counsel argued these points in closing argument and the state, in closing argument, conceded that nonsexual transmission was possible. The essential point was conveyed to the jury. The majority could not conclude that there was a reasonable probability that the trial's outcome would have been different if additional such testimony was presented. Justice Palmer dissented agreeing with the lower courts.