State v. Franko
There is case law in Connecticut that speaks to the highly prejudicial nature of prior uncharged sexual misconduct evidence; however, the presence of other factors can overcome such prejudicial nature. Following a jury trial, Lawrence Franko was convicted of kidnapping in the second degree under C.G.S. §53a-94(a) concerning allegations that he forced his way into the vehicle of his prior girlfriend, grabbed her hair and hit her face against the dashboard, held her head down and drove away. She escaped at a gas station. Franko appealed claiming that the trial court abused its discretion in denying his motion in limine to exclude certain prior uncharged misconduct evidence. The Appellate Court disagreed and affirmed the judgment. The trial court reasonably could have determined that the victim's testimony regarding prior misconduct was relevant to the issue of the defendant's intent, satisfying the first part of the admissibility test under Connecticut Code of Evidence §4-5(b). Kidnapping in the second degree under C.G.S. §53a-94(a) is a specific intent crime. The state had the burden to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant's intent to "abduct" the victim. Given the statutory definition of "abduct," the state needed to show beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant restrained the victim with the intent to prevent her liberation by use or threat of use of physical force or intimidation. The victim testified that the defendant previously had subjected her to verbal and physical abuse, damaged her property and sexually assaulted her twice. The testimony was relevant to the defendant's intent to abduct the victim and restrain her movement on the relevant date. The defendant's previous violent and threatening behavior toward the victim was relevant to show his intent to prevent her liberation by use or threat of use of physical force and intimidation. The court issued limiting instructions and, under the circumstances, did not abuse its discretion in finding the probative value of the evidence outweighed its prejudicial impact. The highly prejudicial nature of prior sexual misconduct evidence can and was overcome by other factors, here. Even if improperly admitted, the defendant failed to show that its admission was harmful, given the strength of the state's case and the impact of the evidence on the jury.