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Lewis v. Commissioner of Correction

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

June 7, 2016


          Argued March 14, 2016

         Appeal from Superior Court, judicial district of Tolland, Fuger, J.

          Vishal K. Garg, for the appellant (petitioner).

          Stephen R. Finucane, assistant attorney general, with whom, on the brief, were George Jepsen, attorney general, and Steven R. Strom, assistant attorney general, for the appellee (respondent).

          Lavine, Alvord and Prescott, Js.


          ALVORD, J.

         The petitioner, Prince Lewis, appeals following the habeas court’s denial of his petition for certification to appeal from the judgment denying his amended petition for a writ of habeas corpus. On appeal, the petitioner claims that the court (1) abused its discretion when itdenied his petition for certification to appeal, and (2) improperly rejected his claim that his constitutional right to due process under the federal and state constitutions was violated by the extraordinary delay in his extradition and reincarceration after he absconded from supervised home release. Specifically, the petitioner claims that ‘‘Connecticut waived jurisdiction over the petitioner’’ because of its ‘‘failure to make reasonable efforts to return the petitioner to its custody, ’’ and, accordingly, could not ‘‘compel him to complete his prior sentence.’’ We dismiss the petitioner’s appeal.

         The following facts and procedural history are relevant to the resolution of the petitioner’s claims. The petitioner was convicted of the sale of narcotics in violation of General Statutes § 21a-277 (a), and, on May 9, 1989, was sentenced to a term of ten years incarceration, execution suspended after three years, followed by a period of probation. While incarcerated, the petitioner submitted a community release application, dated May 18, 1989, requesting a transfer to a community release program and agreeing to abide by any conditions imposed by the respondent, the Commissioner of Correction. On June 7, 1989, the petitioner was transferred from the Carl Robinson Correctional Institution to a supervised home release program, [1] pursuant to General Statutes (Rev. to 1989) § 18-100 (e).[2] That same day, the petitioner signed a document, titled ‘‘CONDITIONS OF COMMUNITY RELEASE, ’’ which acknowledged his understanding of and agreement to twenty enumerated conditions. The petitioner was released to his aunt’s residence in New London, and, initially, he complied with the program’s requirement to report to the New London parole office. He was last seen by a parole officer on August 16, 1989. Subsequent attempts to locate the petitioner, by home visits, telephone calls and correspondence, were unsuccessful. On October 17, 1989, he was declared an absconder by the respondent.

         The petitioner was not in the respondent’s physical custody between October 18, 1989, and December 20, 2013. On that date, he was extradited from the state of New York and was returned to the respondent’s custody. During his twenty-four years at large, the petitioner sometimes lived in the community under his name Prince Lewis. At other times, however, he used as many as four different aliases and lived in as many as nine different residences. He also utilized five birth-dates and two social security numbers. The petitioner was arrested fifteen times, and was convicted of four felonies and three misdemeanors. The petitioner’s criminal conduct occurred in the states of New York, Maryland and Illinois.

         On February 24, 2014, the petitioner, as a self-represented party, filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus and commenced the present action. After the petitioner’s request for appointment of counsel was granted, his attorney filed an amended two count petition on May 16, 2014. In his first count, the petitioner alleged that he had completed his sentence because it had continued to run until the respondent issued an order for his return on November 25, 2013. In his second count, the petitioner alleged that ‘‘the [twenty-four year] period of time that elapsed . . . between the suspension of the petitioner’s sentence and the petitioner’s return to actual custody was in violation of the petitioner’s right to due process.’’ He further alleged that ‘‘[t]he respondent failed to diligently pursue the return of the petitioner to the [respondent’s] custody, ’’ that ‘‘[t]he petitioner could have been found through reasonable diligence, ’’ that ‘‘[t]he delay [was] extraordinary and unreasonable, ’’ and that ‘‘[t]he delay prejudiced the petitioner.’’

         The parties submitted pretrial briefs to the habeas court. The petitioner’s May 12, 2014 pretrial brief recited twenty-two facts that were stipulated to by the parties. His sole argument centered on the fact that the respondent had not issued a remand to custody order until November 25, 2013. Relying on Strain v. Warden, 27 Conn.Supp. 439, 242 A.2d 90 (1968), and Evans v. Walker, 16 Conn.Supp. 22 (1948), the petitioner claimed that his sentence had continued to run and had been served in its entirety, thereby making any continued confinement illegal. Other than stating that ‘‘[t]he petitioner’s continued confinement violates the petitioner’s constitutional right to due process, ’’ the petitioner did not address the second count of his amended petition.

         The respondent’s May 15, 2014 pretrial brief distinguished the cases cited by the petitioner on the ground that they addressed violation of parole issues. Referring to our Supreme Court’s decision in Asherman v. Mea-chum, 213 Conn. 38, 48–49, 566 A.2d 663 (1989), the respondent argued that there are critical differences between supervised home release and parole. The petitioner, who was on supervised home release, remained in the respondent’s legal custody as if he continued to be incarcerated in a locked facility, whereas a parolee would be in the custody of the Board of Pardons and Paroles.[3] With respect to the second count of the amended petition, the respondent characterized the claim as one of laches and argued that the doctrine of laches is not applicable to governmental entities.

         The trial before the habeas court was held on May 23, 2014. The petitioner’s witnesses were Michelle

         Deveau and himself. The respondent called Louis Roy, a retired employee of the Department of Correction, and Joseph Haggan, the director of parole and community services for the Department of Correction, who testified that the petitioner had never been on parole. Following the testimony of the four witnesses, the parties’ counsel made closing arguments. The petitioner’s counsel, after stipulating that the petitioner was on supervised home release, argued that supervised home release was ‘‘effectively the same ...

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