THE CONNECTICUT LAW TRIBUNE
July 17, 2007
A prosecutor did not inappropriately appeal to the sympathy of a jury by referring to a deaf sexual assault victim as vulnerable when there was a basis in the evidence for the reference. The jury reasonably could have found the following facts. Eugene Cromety is the father of the deaf victim's three younger half sisters and was in a relationship with the victim's mother. On three separate occasions, Cromety engaged in sexual acts with the victim against her will starting when the victim was about 12 years old. The victim was 15 years old at the time she reluctantly testified. After an anonymous report of sexual abuse was made to the department of children and families concerning the victim, she was taken to a child sex abuse clinic and examined. Cromety was charged and convicted following a jury trial of sexual assault and risk of injury to a child. He appealed claiming, inter alia, that prosecutorial impropriety deprived him of his constitutional right to a fair trial. The Appellate Court found no prosecutorial impropriety and affirmed. The defendant failed to object at trial to the claims of impropriety and obtained review under the 1987 Supreme Court case of State v. Williams. An expert testified that studies suggest that disability places children at 50 percent greater risk for being abused or neglected. The defendant argued that this testimony improperly invited the jury to believe the victim's testimony merely because she is disabled. This mere evidentiary claim masquerading as a constitutional violation did not merit review. The prosecutor's reference to the expert's testimony in closing argument and calling her powerless and vulnerable did not improperly appeal to the emotions of the jury. The victim's disability was relevant to the state's theory of the case, that the defendant took advantage of her disability, especially in light of the fact that he was the person in the house who learned to use sign language and on whom the victim depended for communication. Once the expert testimony was in evidence, the prosecutor was permitted to use it during final argument. The Court could not say that the prosecutor's argument strayed beyond the evidence or the inferences the jury reasonably could draw from it. The prosecutor did not vouch for the victim's credibility by asking the jury: "Is that something somebody would make up?" The defendant also argued that prosecutorial misconduct occurred when the prosecutor brought to the jury's attention the defendant's silence in the face of a police officer's informing him that the victim had accused him of sexual assault. A defendant has not suffered a violation of due process where his pre-Miranda silence is brought to the attention of the jury.
Gale Document Number:A166641988