State v. Lanasa
As explained in the 2004 Appellate Court case of Irving v. Firehouse Associates, LLC, "[a]bsent a showing of actual prejudice, the court will not be found to have abused its discretion when [granting a party's] motion for a continuance." Following a jury trial, Sandra Lanasa was found not guilty of sexual assault in the second degree, but guilty of illegal sexual contact with a child and risk of injury to a child, in connection with allegations that she engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with a 15-year-old male classmate of her daughter. Lanasa appealed claiming, first, that the court improperly granted the state's request for a several day continuance so that the victim could be present for closing arguments. She argued that the prosecutor's seeking a continuance on behalf of the victim was improper advocacy in excess of her authority, statutorily and under the rules of professional conduct, and thus, prosecutorial impropriety in violation of the defendant's due process rights. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment. The defendant did not demonstrate how she was actually harmed by the continuance or explain how the outcome of the trial would have been different had the court denied the request for a continuance. The defense rested on a Friday before a Monday holiday without putting on an expected defense. The trial court granted the continuance until the following Wednesday to allow the victim to be present finding that it had no basis upon which to make a finding of prejudice or harm to the accused and a clearly surprising schedule to the complaining witness. The Appellate Court concluded that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in granting the continuance. The defendant did not show actual prejudice. The defendant also challenged the court's jury instructions, including the court's refusal to instruct the jury about the victim's credibility given his age and immaturity. However, a specific charge about the complaining witness is only appropriate when there is evidence that he could have been subject to criminal prosecution. At best, the defendant was speculating that the victim might have been disciplined. Such speculative actions did not require a special jury instruction.