State v. Hill
Under Connecticut Code of Evidence §4-5, although evidence of other crimes, wrongs or acts, such as uncharged misconduct, is inadmissible to prove bad character or a propensity to engage in wrongdoing, such evidence may be admitted for other purposes. Four witnesses saw Markease Hill fatally shoot Ensley Myrick and Joseph Reed in a parking lot. At trial, the court permitted the state, over the defendant's objection, to adduce evidence of Hill's flight from police during an unrelated motor vehicle stop, approximately two months after the shootings, before police sought Hill for the shootings, as evidence of his consciousness of guilt. The prosecutor argued that the flight evidence was admissible under the 2001 Appellate Court case of State v. Holmes and did not amount to uncharged misconduct. The court found the probative value of the flight relevant and any prejudicial impact outweighed by its probative value citing Holmes. The defendant objected to the court's jury instructions on consciousness of guilt. The jury found the defendant guilty on five counts including two counts of murder and one count of capital felony. He appealed claiming, inter alia, that the court, induced by the prosecutor's mischaracterization of the law, improperly admitted the flight evidence without considering its prejudicial impact as uncharged misconduct and without a limiting jury instruction precluding consideration of the evidence for an improper purpose. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment. The record did not support the contention that the trial court improperly admitted the flight evidence as uncharged misconduct. Regardless of whether particular evidence constitutes uncharged misconduct or whether it is offered to prove consciousness of guilt, the same legal standard governs its admissibility. The trial court expressly stated that the evidence was relevant and that its probative value outweighed its prejudicial effect. This is precisely the two part test for the admission of misconduct evidence. The court reasonably concluded that the probative value of the evidence was weightier than its prejudicial effect and did not abuse its discretion in ruling that the flight evidence was probative of consciousness of guilt, despite the lapse of time and lack of an arrest warrant. The defendant's claim was unpreserved that the court improperly failed to give a limiting instruction on uncharged misconduct evidence. His claim that prosecutorial impropriety induced the error failed.