Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Williams v. Commissioner of Correction

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

December 20, 2016

LUIS F. WILLIAMS
v.
COMMISSIONER OF CORRECTION

          Argued September 15, 2016

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

          Stephanie L. Evans, assigned counsel, for the appellant (petitioner).

          James M. Ralls, assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Brian Preleski, state's attorney, and Jo Anne Sulik, supervisory assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (respondent).

          Alvord, Mullins and Sullivan, Js.

          OPINION

          SULLIVAN, J.

         Following the habeas court's judgment denying his petition for a writ of habeas corpus, the petitioner, Luis Williams, appeals from the habeas court's denial of his petition for certification to appeal. On appeal, the petitioner claims that the habeas court abused its discretion when it denied his petition for certification to appeal from the habeas court's denial of his petition for a writ of habeas corpus, wherein he alleged that (1) his counsel[1] at trial provided ineffective assistance by failing to take curative measures to remedy prosecutorial impropriety that occurred during closing arguments, and (2) his counsel on direct appeal provided ineffective assistance by failing to raise a claim of prosecutorial impropriety. We conclude that the habeas court properly denied the petition for certification to appeal. We therefore dismiss the appeal.

         The following facts, as set forth by this court on direct appeal, and procedural history are relevant to this appeal. ‘‘On September 3, 2004, police officers from the New Britain and Waterbury police departments, aided by two United States marshals, executed an arrest warrant for the [petitioner] at an efficiency apartment at 636 Riverside Avenue in Waterbury. The officers entered the apartment and found the [petitioner] sitting on the couch in the living room, which was located directly in front of the door, and the [petitioner's] brother, Josue Williams, lying on the floor next to the couch. The [petitioner] was arrested and handcuffed.

         ‘‘Detective Mark Santopietro removed the cushions from the couch where the [petitioner] had been sitting and discovered a pistol. Santopietro immediately notified the other officers of the presence of a firearm. Shortly after Santopietro's discovery, Sergeant Harold Setzer noticed a box of what he believed to be ammunition. Concerned that there might be other individuals in the apartment, Setzer moved to do a protective sweep of the apartment.

         ‘‘Setzer walked six to eight feet from where the [petitioner] was located to a kitchen counter. At the counter, he saw Styrofoam cups filled with numerous bags of a substance he believed to be heroin. He next moved to the bedroom, where he opened a closet door and saw narcotics packaging and a narcotics sifter. Setzer did not seize any of the items he discovered but instead left them in place for the forensic staff. Setzer's entire sweep took less than one minute.'' (Footnotes omitted.) State v. Williams, 110 Conn.App. 329, 331-32, 954 A.2d 878 (2008).

         The petitioner subsequently was convicted following a jury trial of possession of narcotics with intent to sell by a person who is not drug-dependent in violation of General Statutes § 21a-278 (b), possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell within 1500 feet of a school in violation of General Statutes § 21a-278a (b), and criminal possession of a firearm in violation of General Statutes § 53a-217. The petitioner thereafter appealed, challenging the denial of his motion to suppress the drugs found on the kitchen counter. Id., 332. This court affirmed his conviction. Id., 334-35.

         On September 28, 2009, the petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus. In his second amended petition filed at the habeas trial on April 2, 2015, the petitioner claimed, inter alia, that the acts and omissions of counsel at trial denied him his right to effective assistance of counsel. Specifically, he alleged that counsel was ineffective for failing to challenge, inter alia, improper comments made by the prosecutor during closing arguments. Additionally, he claimed that counsel's failure to raise a claim of prosecutorial impropriety in his criminal appeal denied him his right to effective assistance of appellate counsel.[2]

         On April 2, 2015, in an oral decision, the habeas court denied the petitioner's habeas petition. On April 7, 2015, the court denied his petition for certification to appeal. This appeal followed. Additional facts will be set forth as necessary.

         ‘‘We begin by setting forth the applicable standard of review. Faced with a habeas court's denial of a petition for certification to appeal, a petitioner can obtain appellate review of the dismissal of his petition for habeas corpus only by satisfying the two-pronged test enunciated by our Supreme Court in Simms v. Warden, 229 Conn. 178, 640 A.2d 601 (1994), and adopted in Simms v. Warden, 230 Conn. 608, 612, 646 A.2d 126 (1994). First, he must demonstrate that the denial of his petition for certification constituted an abuse of discretion. . . . Second, if the petitioner can show an abuse of discretion, he must then prove that the decision of the habeas court should be reversed on its merits.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Lewis v. Commissioner of Correction, 166 Conn.App. 22, 30, 140 A.3d 414, cert. denied, 323 Conn. 905, 140 A.3d 414 (2016).

         ‘‘To prove an abuse of discretion, the petitioner must demonstrate that the [resolution of the underlying claim involves issues that] are debatable among jurists of reason; that a court could resolve the issues [in a different manner]; or that the questions are adequate to deserve encouragement to proceed further. . . . If this burden is not satisfied, then the claim that the judgment of the habeas court should be reversed does not qualify for consideration by this court.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Miller v. Commissioner of Correction, 153 Conn.App. 747, 751, 104 A.3d 767 (2014), cert. denied, 315 Conn. 912, 106 A.3d 304 (2015). ‘‘In determining whether the habeas court abused its discretion in denying the petitioner's request for certification, we necessarily must consider the merits of the petition- er's underlying claims to determine whether the habeas court reasonably determined that the petitioner's appeal was frivolous.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Taft v. Commissioner of Correction, 159 Conn.App. 537, 544, 124 A.3d 1, cert. denied, 320 Conn. 910, 128 A.3d 954 (2015).

         Finally, ‘‘[t]he conclusions reached by the trial court in its decision to dismiss [a] habeas petition are matters of law, subject to plenary review. . . . [When] the legal conclusions of the court are challenged, [the reviewing court] must determine whether they are legally and logically correct . . . and whether they find support in the facts that appear in the record. . . . To the extent that factual findings are challenged, this court cannot disturb the underlying facts found by the habeas court unless they are clearly erroneous . . . . [A] finding of fact is clearly erroneous when there is no evidence in the record to support it . . . or when although there is evidence to support it, the reviewing court on the entire evidence is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Brewer v. Commissioner of Correction, 162 Conn.App. 8, 13, 130 A.3d 882 (2015).

         I

         The petitioner first claims that the habeas court improperly denied his petition for certification to appeal because there was merit to his claim that counsel provided ineffective assistance at trial by failing to take curative actions when the prosecutor vouched for the credibility of the state's witness, Setzer, in summation and improperly stated that no evidence existed against the petitioner's brother, Josue Williams (Josue), related to the drugs and firearm found in the apartment.

         ‘‘In order to establish an ineffective assistance of counsel claim a petitioner must meet the two-pronged test enunciated in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984). Specifically, the claim must be supported by evidence establishing that (1) counsel's representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness, and (2) counsel's deficient performance prejudiced the defense because there was a reasonable probability that the outcome of the proceedings would have been different had it not been for the deficient performance. . . . Because both prongs of Strickland must be demonstrated for the petitioner to prevail, failure to prove either prong is fatal to an ineffective assistance claim. . . . In a habeas appeal, this court cannot disturb the underlying facts found by the habeas court unless they are clearly erroneous, but our review of whether the facts as found by the habeas court constituted violation of the petitioner's constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel is plenary.'' (Citation omitted; emphasis in original; internal quotation marks omitted.) Atkins v. Commissioner of Correction, 158 Conn.App. 669, 675, 120 A.3d 513, cert. denied, 319 Conn. 932, 125 A.3d 206 (2015).

         The petitioner argues that statements made by the prosecutor in summation constituted prosecutorial impropriety. Specifically, the petitioner cites comments in which the prosecutor contrasted the credibility of Setzer and Josue. He takes issue with the prosecutor's description of Setzer as ‘‘a man with twelve years narcotics experience, who doesn't know this [petitioner], doesn't know his brother, has never seen them before, has no interest in this case and was such a trusted person he was a guard on Air Force One for President Reagan.'' The petitioner argues that through this statement the ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.