United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS
JEFFREY ALKER MEYER United States District Judge.
Christopher Brown has filed a petition for a writ of habeas
corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. He challenges a
state court murder conviction and sentence to which he
stipulated in a plea agreement. The plea agreement specified
a sentence of 30 years of imprisonment for his plea of guilty
to murder, and it further provided for additional but
concurrent terms of imprisonment for other charges he faced
including an assault charge for which he had recently been
found guilty after trial. Both the murder and the assault
charge allegedly involved the same firearm, and they involved
incidents that occurred only days apart from one another in
state court judge sentenced petitioner in accordance with the
plea agreement to a total effective sentence of 30 years for
all the pending charges, petitioner pursued an appeal of the
assault conviction, and he eventually won that appeal. But,
according to petitioner, he was surprised to learn that-even
having won the appeal of his assault conviction-he had no
hopes of reducing his total term of imprisonment, because he
could not withdraw his guilty plea to the murder charge.
this habeas corpus petition, petitioner contends that his
guilty plea to the murder charge was invalid. First, he
argues that his counsel misadvised him that he would be able
to withdraw his murder plea if he won an appeal of his
assault charge. Relatedly, he argues that his murder plea was
not knowing and voluntary because of his mistaken belief
(regardless of any misadvice by counsel) that he would be
able to withdraw his murder plea in the event that he
succeeded on his appeal of the assault charge.
claims have already been considered and rejected in the
Connecticut state courts. Following an evidentiary hearing, a
Connecticut state court judge concluded that petitioner was
not misadvised by his counsel and that he would have pleaded
guilty to the murder charge even if he had known that he
could not withdraw his guilty plea if an appeal of the
assault charge were successful. Because it is clear that the
Connecticut state courts did not either unreasonably apply
federal law or make unreasonable factual determinations in
rejecting petitioner’s claims, I will deny the
October 2005, petitioner stood trial in Connecticut state
court on charges arising from two separate cases, which had
been consolidated for trial. First, he was charged with
first-degree assault and carrying a pistol without a permit
arising from the non-fatal shooting of his brother. Second,
he was charged with the gunshot murder of Jason Cragget. The
two incidents occurred just ten days apart, and the state
court consolidated the cases for a single trial on the basis
of the state’s contention that both incidents involved
the same gun.
lengthy trial, a jury convicted petitioner in November 2005
of assault and unlawful gun possession (the two charges
arising from the shooting of his brother) but was unable to
reach a verdict on the murder charge. Two weeks later,
petitioner attempted to escape custody and was apprehended
and charged with escape.
December 2005, as part of a ―global
settlement'' of all charges and convictions,
petitioner entered an Alford plea to the murder
charge and pleaded guilty to the escape charge. At his plea
hearing, the court canvassed petitioner in an attempt to
ensure the plea was being made knowingly and voluntarily. The
court asked petitioner numerous questions to confirm his
understanding, including the following exchanges:
THE COURT: Now, by pleading guilty, sir, you are giving up
certain rights. Your right to continue to plead not guilty.
MR. BROWN: Right.
THE COURT: To have a trial before a judge or a jury, to have
an attorney assist you at that trial, present any defenses,
confront your accusers, cross examine witnesses, and
you’re also giving up your right against
self-incrimination. Do you understand that, sir?
MR. BROWN: Yes.
THE COURT: You’ve already had a trial on the murder
charge. There’s not going to be a retrial, based
upon your plea of guilty, do you understand that?
MR. BROWN: Yes.
Doc. #11-8 at 3 (emphasis added). The canvass continued:
THE COURT: Have you understood all my questions, Mr. Brown?
MR. BROWN: Yes.
THE COURT: And you want me to accept your pleas ...