Las Vegas POA

Internal Affairs Findings Not Admissible In Civil Lawsuit Against Officer

Written on 09/29/2020
Will Aitchison

In 2013, Keith Manson was riding his dirt bike on Flint Street in New Haven, Connecticut. At the same time, Daniel Conklin, an on-duty New Haven police officer, was driving his marked police cruiser on Flint Street, in the opposite direction in which Manson was traveling. As Conklin drove down Flint Street, he observed a father with his young child playing in the street. To provide sufficient space to safely pass the child and his father, Conklin pulled his cruiser away from them toward the middle of the road.

As Conklin slowly was maneuvering his cruiser toward the middle of the road, Manson continued east on Flint Street at a high rate of speed, eventually cresting a hill at the top of the street. Shortly after cresting the hill, Manson collided with the front fender of Conklin’s cruiser. Manson fell off his bike, bleeding and in pain. Conklin called an ambulance. He then approached Manson and placed him in handcuffs because Manson was combative. The ambulance transported Manson to Yale New Haven Hospital, where he required immediate surgery for a fractured kneecap, which required the removal of a rod in his leg from a prior car accident.

Manson sued Conklin and the City. At the conclusion of the trial, a jury quickly ruled against Manson, finding that he had not established that Conklin was negligent. Manson appealed, arguing that the trial court improperly precluded him from impeaching Conklin about the findings and conclusions contained in unrelated Internal Affairs investigative reports regarding alleged misconduct and dishonesty he previously had engaged in as a police officer and his lack of veracity in responding to those allegations.

The Connecticut Court of Appeals rejected Manson’s arguments and his appeal. The Court noted that the law only allows limited use of evidence of prior acts of dishonesty: “One method for impeaching a witness’s credibility allows a party to cross-examine a witness about the witness’s prior misconduct subject to certain limitations: First, cross-examination may only extend to specific acts of misconduct other than a felony conviction if those acts bear a special significance upon the issue of veracity. Second, whether to permit cross-examination as to particular acts of misconduct lies largely within the discretion of the trial court. Third, extrinsic evidence of such acts is inadmissible. The only way to prove misconduct of a witness for impeachment purposes is through examination of the witness. The party examining the witness must accept the witness’s answers about a particular act of misconduct and may not use extrinsic evidence to contradict the witness’s answers.

“In the present case, the conclusions and findings contained within the Internal Affairs reports constitute extrinsic evidence of alleged prior misconduct because they reflect the opinions of the Department that Conklin acted untruthfully. Although Manson would have been permitted to question Conklin about his misconduct, he would have been precluded from offering extrinsic evidence of that misconduct if denied by Conklin. Manson could not circumvent these rules by questioning Conklin about the conclusions and findings contained in the reports.”

Manson v. Conklin, 197 Conn. App. 51 (Conn. App. 2020).

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