A primer on severance and uncharged misconduct

Yesterday, the CT Supreme Court issued State v. Randolph [pdf], reversing a murder conviction. The Court agreed with the defendant that he should not have been tried together for two separate offenses. Here is the standard for severance in Connecticut:

The defendant bears a heavy burden of showing that the denial of severance resulted in substantial injustice, and that any resulting prejudice was beyond the curative power of the court’s instructions. . . .

Consequently, we have identified several factors that a trial court should consider in deciding whether a severance may be necessary to avoid undue prejudice resulting from consolidation of multiple charges for trial. These factors include: (1) whether the charges involve discrete, easily distinguishable factual scenarios; (2) whether the crimes were of a violent nature or concerned brutal or shocking conduct on the defendant’s part; and (3) the duration and complexity of the trial. . . . If any or all of these factors are present, a reviewing court must decide whether the trial court’s jury instructions cured any prejudice that might have occurred.’’

In agreeing with the defendant, the Court embarks on a lengthy discussion of the standard for admission of uncharged misconduct evidence in non-sex cases (which is a more stringent standard than in sex cases), because it has not had the opportunity to do so and because, while being consistent in the application of the standard, the Court has not been consistent in its articulation and explanation of the principles guiding its analysis.

Accordingly, we take this opportunity to analyze carefully our jurisprudence concerning the admissibility of evidence of uncharged misconduct offered to establish the existence of a common scheme or plan in nonsex crime cases, and to clarify the principles that govern our review.

Yay. For those who want a quick review of the law and standard of admissibility of uncharged misconduct, this is the case for you.

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