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Dumas v. Commissioner of Correction

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

September 6, 2016

NYRON DUMAS
v.
COMMISSIONER OF CORRECTION

          Argued January 19, 2016.

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

          Heather Clark, assigned counsel, for the appellant (petitioner).

          Melissa L. Streeto, senior assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Kevin D. Lawlor, state's attorney, and Angela R. Macchiarulo, senior assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (respondent).

          Beach, Sheldon and Prescott, Js.

          OPINION

          BEACH, J.

         The petitioner, Nyron Dumas, appeals following the denial of his petition for certification to appeal from the judgment of the habeas court dismissing in part and denying in part his petition for a writ of habeas corpus. He claims that the habeas court abused its discretion in denying his petition for certification to appeal and, as to the merits, improperly denied a count of his habeas petition for failure of proof. We disagree with the petitioner and agree with the result reached by the habeas court, but on an alternative ground.

         The following facts and procedural history are relevant to the petitioner's appeal. In February, 1999, the then fourteen year old petitioner was at an apartment visiting another person. While there, he and the victim exchanged words that led to a heated argument. When he was asked to leave the apartment, the petitioner did so. He went outside, below the apartment's balcony, and yelled at the victim to come outside. The victim went onto the balcony and the petitioner fatally shot the victim in the abdomen. In October, 1999, when the petitioner was fifteen years old, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the first degree with a firearm in violation of General Statutes § 53a-55 (a). That charge carried a maximum penalty of forty years imprisonment and a minimum of five years imprisonment. General Statutes §§ 53a-55a, 53a-35a (5). At the time of the guilty plea, the state noted that the agreement called for thirty years incarceration with a right to argue for less. The state indicated that, because of the petitioner's age, the recommendation was for ten years less than the maximum sentence permitted by statute. At sentencing, the defendant's attorney stated, ‘‘Obviously, I'm going to argue to the court to consider his age; and I think it is a very critical component in this particular sentencing.'' The court concluded, ‘‘This incident, with all the circumstances I've heard, he took the life of the victim here. There has not been any showing of any just cause. The state has given consideration in reducing the charge and the plea agreement both to the factors I have cited, having no prior record and his age. . . . The unfortunate circumstance of the age or the loss of loved ones around him is that he did not understand the value of human life and the blessing he . . . did have, despite all the trials that he had been given as well. . . . The only way that the court can impress upon him the value of a human life, particularly at his age, is by the impact my sentence will have on his own.'' The court then sentenced the petitioner to thirty years incarceration.

         In October, 2008, the self-represented[1] petitioner filed an eighteen count petition for a writ of habeas corpus. In count eleven, which is the only count implicated in this appeal, the petitioner alleged that ‘‘the sentence imposed was inappropriate and disproportionate in light of the nature of the offense, the character of the offender, the protection of public interest and the deterrent, rehabilitative, isolative and denunciatory purposes for which the sentence was intended . . . . [T]he sentence imposed was unduly excessive in light of the petitioner's youth and diminished capacity at the time of the crime.'' (Citation omitted.) The petitioner attached to his petition a number of documents, including transcripts from the underlying criminal proceedings and several scholarly articles.

         On May 1, 2014, the day the habeas trial was set to begin, the following colloquy occurred:

‘‘The Court: Okay. All right. So, Mr. Dumas, are you ready to proceed to trial today?
‘‘[The Petitioner]: No.
‘‘The Court: Okay. Well, today's your trial day, so we're going forward.
‘‘[The Petitioner]: Yeah, but I don't understand habeas law, so that's why I ...

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