EvidenceProf Blog

Editor: Colin Miller
Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

Friday, January 27, 2012

Objection!: Appellate Court Of Connecticut Finds Issue Waived Because Defendant Cited To Federal Rule Of Evidence

In order to preserve an issue for appellate review, a party must make a timely objection and state the specific ground for the objection. The recent opinion of the Appellate Court of Connecticut in Corbett v. Commissioner of Correction, 2012 WL 224914 (Conn.App. 2012), is instructive in this regard. But did the court go too far?

In Corbett, Terrance Corbett, appealed from the judgment of a habeas court denying his third amended petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Part of Corbett's argument on appeal was that the court erred by precluding him from presenting into evidence a prior consistent statement by Jamelle Byrd, a witness. The Appellate Court of Connecticut, however, rejected this argument, finding that

The petitioner, in his second renewed offer of Byrd's testimony, only cited to rule 801(d)(1)(B) of the Federal Rules of Evidence in making this claim, and did not cite to the Connecticut Code of Evidence. The court denied the motion, noting the "absence of any showing or indication that Federal Rule of Evidence 801(d)(1)(B) has been adopted by the Supreme Court of Connecticut or otherwise is applicable in state court proceedings."

"Our review of evidentiary rulings made by the trial court is limited to the specific legal ground raised in the objection."... Moreover, "[a]lthough the [c]ode follows the general format and sometimes the language of the Federal Rules of Evidence, the [c]ode does not adopt the Federal Rules of Evidence or cases interpreting those rules."...We therefore decline to review this claim.

Pretty harsh, right? It's clear that Corbett objected at trial that the subject statement qualified for admission as a prior consistent statement and merely erred by citing to Federal Rule of Evidence 801(d)(1)(B) rather than Connecticut Code of Evidence Section 6-11. But should that simple error have precluded appellate review when it was clear that the court basically knew what Corbett was doing? The court in Corbett of course was careful to distinguish the Connecticut Code of Evidence from the Federal Rules of Evidence, but Federal Rule of Evidence 103 deems an objection sufficient to preserve an issue for appellate review if the objection states the specific ground for the objection or if the ground for the objection "was apparent from the context..." Shouldn't the appellate court have applied this principle in Corbett?




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