State v. Peeler
Even if an individual is unavailable to serve as a witness, a statement offered against a party who has engaged in wrongdoing that was intended to, and did, procure the unavailability of the declarant as a witness is admissible. The government alleged that the defendant, Russell Peeler, attempted to murder a rival drug dealer, Rudolph Snead. The government also alleged that Leroy Brown Jr. and his mother, Karen Clark, were murdered on Jan. 7, 1999, because 8-year-old Leroy Brown was believed to be a potential witness against Russell Peeler in the Rudolph Snead case. Rudolph Snead and Leroy Brown allegedly made statements to the police, and the State of Connecticut moved to admit the statements. Code of Evidence §8-68 provides, "The following are not excluded by the hearsay rule if the declarant is unavailable as a witness . . . A statement offered against a party who has engaged in wrongdoing that was intended to, and did, procure the unavailability of the declarant as a witness." To prevail, wrote the court, "[T]he State must prove [by a fair preponderance of the evidence] . . . that the defendant, Russell Peeler, intended to procure the unavailability of the witness whose statement is being offered and that the defendant's wrongful act must have accomplished that purpose." Substantial evidence exists that the defendant attempted to kill Rudolph Snead in a drive-by shooting. The court credited evidence that defendant Russell Peeler expressed concern that Leroy Brown could be a witness against him and that Brown's mother, Clarke, would attempt to protect her child. The defendant was convicted of murdering Brown and Clarke, which prevented Brown from serving as a witness against him. The court granted the State of Connecticut's motion to admit the defendants' statements, pursuant to Code of Evidence §8-68. Assistant State's Attorney Joseph Corradino represented the government. Attorney Robert Sullivan represented the defendant, Russell Peeler.