State v. Roy D. L.

Decision Date28 July 2021
Docket NumberSC 20152
Citation339 Conn. 820,262 A.3d 712
Parties STATE of Connecticut v. ROY D. L.
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court

Trent A. LaLima, Hartford, with whom, on the brief, was Hubert J. Santos, for the appellant (defendant).

Ronald G. Weller, senior assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Sharmese L. Walcott, state's attorney, Gail P. Hardy, former state's attorney, and David L. Zagaja, senior assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

Robinson, C. J., and McDonald, Mullins, Kahn, Ecker and Keller, Js.

KAHN, J.

Following a trial to the court, Gold , J. , the defendant, Roy D. L., was convicted of sexual assault in the first degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-70 (a) (2), sexual assault in the fourth degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-73a (a) (1) (A), and risk of injury to a child in violation of General Statutes § 53-21 (a) for the sexual abuse of his daughter, R. On appeal,1 the defendant claims that (1) the trial court abused its discretion in admitting into evidence a video recording of R's forensic interview under the medical treatment exception to the hearsay rule, (2) the prosecutor improperly introduced facts not in evidence and commented on the credibility of a witness during closing argument, thereby depriving him of a fair trial, (3) the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support his convictions, and (4) the statutes criminalizing sexual assault in the first degree and risk of injury to a child are unconstitutionally vague as applied to his conduct. We disagree with each of the defendant's claims and, accordingly, affirm the judgment of the trial court.

The following facts, which are either undisputed or reasonably could have been found by the trial court, and procedural history are relevant to this appeal. The defendant's conviction stems from his sexual contact with R in 2015, when she was ten years old. The defendant's inappropriate touching of R first came to light in 2008, when R, who was just three years old at the time, reported to an employee of her school that the defendant had "hurt her pooky," referring to her vagina. The school reported R's statement to the Department of Children and Families (department), which immediately opened an investigation. That day, a representative of the department spoke with the defendant, who stated that R had a medical condition that required him to regularly clean her vaginal area with a cloth and Vaseline. The defendant claimed that he "was the only one [who] knew how to clean [R's] genitals."

During the course of the department's investigation, R was examined by Audrey Courtney, an advanced practice registered nurse at the Saint Francis Hospital Children's Advocacy Center (Children's Advocacy Center). At trial, Courtney testified that, prior to her examination of R, the defendant described to her "some hygiene practices where he was separating [R's] labia after he would wash her." Courtney testified that, during the examination, she did not observe any condition on R's skin that would have necessitated the defendant's conduct. In the hopes of steering the defendant toward more appropriate and less intrusive hygiene practices, Courtney recommended to the defendant that he stop physically cleaning R's vaginal area and use a sitz bath instead.

As a part of its investigation, the department filed a neglect petition against the defendant. In the subsequent proceedings, the defendant signed a written agreement in which he committed to stop physically cleaning R's vaginal area and acknowledged that the cleaning practices recommended by the Children's Advocacy Center and R's pediatrician were more appropriate. 2

According to R's mother, the defendant stopped bathing R after the signing of the agreement, and she assisted R with her daily hygiene until she was eight years old. In 2013, the defendant and R's mother separated, and R began splitting time between her mother's residence and the defendant's residence.

In July, 2015, when R was ten years old, she reported to a camp counselor that the defendant had been "touching" her. The counselor reported R's statement to the department, and a second investigation was opened into the defendant's conduct. On August 19, 2015, R was once again taken to the Children's Advocacy Center where she participated in a forensic interview conducted by Lindsay Craft, a trained forensic interviewer. During that interview, R told Craft that, while she was staying at his home, the defendant had, on multiple occasions over the prior year, touched her vagina and vaginal area after she had showered. R described how the defendant, using a rag, would spread Vaseline over her entire naked body and penetrate her vagina using his fingers. R told Craft that the defendant's conduct caused her physical pain and made her feel uncomfortable.

The defendant was subsequently arrested and charged with one count of sexual assault in the first degree, two counts of sexual assault in the third degree, two counts of sexual assault in the fourth degree, and two counts of risk of injury to a child.3 The defendant affirmatively elected a bench trial. At trial, the court admitted, over defense counsel's objection, a video recording of R's forensic interview in its entirety pursuant to the medical treatment exception to the hearsay rule. See Conn. Code Evid. § 8-3 (5).

At the trial's conclusion, the court found the defendant guilty of one count of sexual assault in the first degree, one count of sexual assault in the fourth degree, and two counts of risk of injury to a child.4 In its oral decision, the trial court expressly credited R's testimony and rejected the defendant's contention that R's "account [was] a wholesale fabrication" and that he was "being set up by R's mother and [the department] ...." The trial court sentenced the defendant to a total effective sentence of fifteen years of imprisonment, execution suspended after nine years, followed by twenty years of probation and one year of special parole. The defendant was also ordered to register as a sex offender. The defendant subsequently appealed to this court. Additional facts and procedural history will be set forth as necessary.

In the present appeal, the defendant raises four separate claims of error. First, the defendant argues that the trial court abused its discretion by admitting the video recording of the forensic interview of R into evidence under the medical treatment exception to the hearsay rule because the interview "had virtually no medical purpose ...."5 Second, the defendant contends that the prosecutor engaged in prosecutorial impropriety during his closing argument by mischaracterizing the testimony of Jessica Jackson, the defendant's former girlfriend, thereby depriving him of a fair trial. Third, the defendant argues that the state's evidence was insufficient to support his conviction on all counts. Finally, the defendant contends that the statutes criminalizing sexual assault in the first degree, § 53a-70 (a) (2), and risk of injury to a child, § 53-21 (a) (2), are unconstitutionally vague as applied to his conduct. We address these claims in turn.

I

The defendant argues that, because the forensic interview of R had "virtually no medical purpose" and was conducted to "create admissible, inculpatory evidence," the video recording was inadmissible under our case law interpreting the scope of the medical treatment exception contained in § 8-3 (5) of the Connecticut Code of Evidence. According to the defendant, he was prejudiced by the admission of the video recording because it corroborated R's in-court testimony and caused the trial court to credit R's testimony over the contradictory testimony presented by the defendant's witnesses. The state, in response, argues that the video recording of the interview is admissible under the exception because medical treatment or diagnosis was a purpose of the interview, and, given the circumstances surrounding the interview, R "necessarily would have understood the interview to have a medical purpose." We agree with the state.

The following additional facts and procedural history are relevant to our consideration of this claim. We begin by describing the contents of the video recording of R's forensic interview at the Children's Advocacy Center. At the outset of the interview, Craft introduced herself to R and explained that her job was to talk to children "about things that have happened to them ... that just made them feel uncomfortable." Craft told R that people she worked with were observing the interview through a one-way mirror and that their observation of the interview would prevent her from having to "talk about the same thing over and over and over again." Craft then stated that the observers "want to make sure that [children's] bodies are okay, that [the children are] okay." Craft also noted that she worked for the hospital, not the department.

During the interview, R described the defendant's practice of touching her vaginal area with a rag after she showered at the defendant's home. In response to Craft's questions about the precise nature of the defendant's conduct, R stated that, after she exits the shower, the defendant frequently directs her to lie naked on his bed, and then applies Vaseline to her entire body, including her vagina, using a rag. R told Craft that it was physically painful, stating that the defendant "uses a rough rag and ... goes in hard and sometimes when he's done doing it, it aches hard." R also told Craft that the defendant "digs through it and its hurts" and that "he [takes] the rag and he goes through it in like the dark spots ...." Toward the end of the interview, Craft asked R if she "worries about [her] body because of [what happened]?" R responded, "yes," and then wondered aloud, "am I going to have to survive this when I'm older?"

During trial, the prosecutor moved to admit the entirety of the video...

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14 cases
  • State v. Andres C.
    • United States
    • Connecticut Court of Appeals
    • November 30, 2021
    ...considered only properly admitted evidence when it rendered its decision." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Roy D. L. , 339 Conn. 820, 842, 262 A.3d 712 (2021) ; see also State v. Ouellette , 190 Conn. 84, 92, 459 A.2d 1005 (1983) ("[i]n trials to the court, where admissible evi......
  • State v. Ares
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • November 22, 2022
    ...inference that the defendant knew the children were present in the home at the time of the incident. See, e.g., State v. Roy D. L. , 339 Conn. 820, 853, 262 A.3d 712 (2021) (concluding that evidence supported "reasonable and logical inference" that defendant's touching of victim was underta......
  • State v. Juan J.
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • July 5, 2022
    ...(Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Jose A. B. , supra, 342 Conn. at 534–35, 270 A.3d 656 ; accord State v. Roy D. L. , 339 Conn. 820, 851, 262 A.3d 712 (2021).10 Intent can be at issue in a general intent crime case, such as sexual assault or risk of injury to a child, when the de......
  • Kovachich v. Dep't of Mental Health & Addiction Servs.
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • September 27, 2022
    ...entirety and did not ask the trial court to exercise its discretion to redact any portion of the exhibit. Cf. State v. Roy D. L. , 339 Conn. 820, 829–30 n.7, 262 A.3d 712 (2021) (emphasizing, with respect to evidentiary admission of forensic interviews, that trial court is not required to t......
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