United States District Court, D. Connecticut
OPINION AND ORDER RE: RESPONDENT'S MOTION TO
DISMISS (Doc. 11)
Geoffrey W. Crawford, Judge
a claim for post-conviction relief filed pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 2254. The case arises out of the state
prosecution and conviction of petitioner Wendell Hasan on
charges of felony murder and burglary in 1986. He is
currently serving a sentence of 80 years. The application for
a writ of habeas corpus before this court challenges the
constitutionality of a search wan-ant permitting a search of
his home in July of 1985.
the federal petition was not filed until 2011, the State has
filed a motion to dismiss on grounds of time-bar. Mr. Hasan
has raised a claim of equitable tolling to excuse his delay
in filing the petition. This court previously ruled that the
equitable tolling issue required an evidentiary hearing. This
hearing occurred on February 17, 2016, and this decision is
based in large part on the evidence provided at the hearing.
Before reaching the issue of equitable tolling, however, it
is necessary to review the history of the case from the
facts giving rise to Mr. Hasan's prosecution were
considered on direct appeal to the Connecticut Supreme Court.
The following summary is drawn from that court's
decision. See State v. Hasan, 205 Conn. 485 (1987).
2, 1985, police responded to the home of George and Rachel
Tyler in Darien, Connecticut, They, fbimd Mr. Tyler dead in
the kitchen. Mrs. Tyler was injured. The house had been
burglarized. Police investigators found a bloody footprint
made by a sneaker.
days later, a plumber clearing a clogged toilet in an
apartment in South Norwalk discovered two credit cards in the
name of George Tyler. The apartment was the home of Mr.
Hasan, his mother, stepfather, brother, two sisters, and
brother's girlfriend. The police conducted a search
pursuant to a warrant. They found a bloody Puma sneaker in
one of the bedrooms. Following his arrest, Mr. Hasan told the
police that he lived at the apartment and owned a pair of
Puma sneakers like those seized.
evidence at trial included comparison of glass shards and
linoleum taken from the crime scene with similar materials
taken from the sole of the bloody sneaker. The traces of
blood on the sneaker were consistent with the victims'
blood but could not be positively identified as theirs. An
investigator from the Connecticut state forensic laboratory
identified the bloody footprint as made by the Puma sneaker.
Mr. Hasan's brother testified that Mr. Hasan had been in
and out of the South Norwalk apartment between July 1 and
July 3 and that the Puma sneakers were Mr. Hasan's
because they were in his room under his bed. A former
cellmate testified that Mr. Hasan had admitted taking part in
podiatrist named Dr. Robert Rinaldi testified that the bloody
sneaker showed signs of wear which matched the size and shape
of Mr. Hasan's foot.
The Direct Appeal
direct appeal, counsel for Mr. Hasan challenged the
admissibility of the podiatrist's statement. On December
15, 1987, the Connecticut Supreme Court affirmed the
admissibility of the expert testimony. Although there was no
established "science of matching shoes to people, "
the podiatrist had sufficient experience in the field to
permit him to compare Mr. Hasan's feet with the sneakers.
Id. at 494. The court drew a parallel to the
identification of skeletal remains, bite marks, and
footprints through physical comparison rather than scientific
test or experiment. The court concluded, "[w]e consider
this case one in which the established techniques in [the
expert's] uncontested area of expertise have been applied
to the solution of a novel problem that is well within the
capability of those techniques." Id.
The First State Habeas Application
1986, Mr. Hasan filed his first state court application for a
writ of habeas corpus. He filed the application pro
se. Attorney Louis Avitabile was assigned to represent
application, Mr. Hasan claimed ineffective assistance of
trial counsel. The state trial judge denied the application
following a three-day evidentiary hearing. See Hasan v.
Warden, No. 86-0000326, 1991 WL 25770 (Conn. Super. Ct.
Feb. 1, 1991). On the third day of the trial, Mr. Hasan's
attorney raised for the first time a claim that trial counsel
had been ineffective in failing to challenge the search
warrant affidavit which led to the discovery and seizure of
the bloody sneaker. The trial court denied a motion to amend
the petition to include this claim. The ...