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Carpenter v. Commissioner of Correction

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

March 28, 2017

BETH ANN CARPENTER
v.
COMMISSIONER OF CORRECTION

          Argued October 18, 2016

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

          Norman A. Pattis, with whom was Brittany B. Paz, for the appellant (petitioner).

          Michael J. Proto, assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, was Kevin T. Kane, chief state's attorney, for the appellee (respondent).

          DiPentima, C. J., and Keller and Calmar, Js.

          OPINION

          DiPENTIMA, C. J.

         The petitioner, Beth Ann Carpenter, appeals from the judgment denying her amended petition for a writ of habeas corpus. On appeal, the petitioner claims that the court erred in denying her claims of ineffective assistance of counsel with respect to (1) her lost opportunity to pursue a plea bargain and (2) the exclusion of expert witness testimony regarding codependency syndrome. We disagree, and affirm the judgment of the habeas court.

         In State v. Carpenter, 275 Conn. 785, 882 A.2d 604 (2005), cert. denied, 547 U.S. 1025, 126 S.Ct. 1578, 164 L.Ed.2d 309 (2006), our Supreme Court set forth the following facts: ‘‘On March 10, 1994, at approximately 7:30 p.m., travelers on Interstate 95 discovered the body of the victim, Anson B. ‘Buzz' Clinton III, lying in the roadway of exit seventy-two, known as the Rocky Neck connector, in the town of East Lyme. The victim had died as a result of multiple gunshot wounds to his head and upper body.

         ‘‘In 1992, the victim met the defendant's sister, Kim Carpenter, at a bar where he performed as an exotic dancer. At the time, Kim and her two year old daughter, Rebecca Carpenter, lived with the defendant and their parents, Richard Carpenter and Cynthia Carpenter, at the Carpenters' home in Ledyard. Shortly after Kim met the victim, however, she moved out of the Carpenters' home and went to live with the victim at his parents' home in Old Lyme, showing no apparent concern for Rebecca and leaving her in the care of the Carpenters for significant periods of time.

         ‘‘Thereafter, Cynthia Carpenter and the defendant, an attorney licensed to practice law in Connecticut, filed an application in the Probate Court seeking Kim's removal as guardian of Rebecca on the ground that Kim had abandoned Rebecca when she went to live with the victim. Cynthia Carpenter also filed a separate application for immediate temporary custody of Rebecca. According to the applications, Rebecca was develop-mentally delayed and required special care that Kim was not providing.

         ‘‘In October, 1992, the court issued an ex parte order granting Cynthia Carpenter immediate temporary custody of Rebecca. The court also appointed a guardian ad litem to represent Rebecca's interests. In December, 1992, following an investigation by the department of children and families and upon the recommendation of the guardian ad litem, the Probate Court reversed the temporary order and returned guardianship and custody of Rebecca to Kim after she took certain court-ordered steps to improve her parenting skills.

         ‘‘In January, 1993, Kim married the victim. Throughout that year, Cynthia Carpenter and the defendant continued to pursue litigation against Kim and the victim concerning guardianship of Rebecca and related visitation issues. The defendant was motivated to assist her mother because she was concerned that Kim was not providing Rebecca with proper care and attention. She also believed that the victim was abusive toward Kim and Rebecca and that Kim was powerless to protect Rebecca from harm. In addition, she was distressed by reports that the victim might leave Connecticut with Kim and Rebecca and that she and the Carpenters no longer would be able to see the child.

         ‘‘In November, 1992, Haiman Clein hired the defendant as an associate in his law firm, Clein and Frasure. In 1993, the defendant moved out of her parents' home and into an apartment in Norwich. At the end of November, 1993, the defendant, who was thirty years old, and Clein, who was fifty-two years old, began a torrid affair. Although Clein was married and the father of four children, he once told the defendant that a book about sexual obsession entitled ‘Damaged' accurately summed up his feelings about their relationship.

         ‘‘By early December, 1993, the defendant had become so worried about Rebecca's safety that she asked Clein to kill the victim. Clein initially refused, but later told the defendant that he knew someone by the name of Mark Despres who might be willing to do the job, at which point the defendant instructed Clein to make the necessary arrangements.

         ‘‘When Clein subsequently met with Despres in his New London office, he explained that he was involved with a woman whose niece was being abused and that the only way to stop the abuse was to kill the abuser. After further discussion, Despres agreed to kill the victim for $8500. The defendant gave Clein the victim's purported home and work addresses, a description of the victim's car and a photograph of the victim, all of which Clein passed on to Despres so that he would be able to locate and identify the victim. Clein also gave Despres approximately $2000 toward payment of his fee.

         ‘‘In mid-February, 1994, Clein told Despres not to kill the victim because he was upset with the defendant and no longer wanted to help her. Although the defendant initially appeared to accept Clein's decision, she came to him three or four weeks later in a state of hysteria after hearing from her family that Rebecca had a burn mark on her back and had been locked in the cellar by the victim. In light of these alleged events, the defendant told Clein that she wanted the victim killed and would be willing to pay for it herself.

         ‘‘The following day, Clein invited Despres to his New London office and asked him to proceed with the killing. Despres indicated that he would do as Clein requested for $5500, less than the agreed upon amount, but that he wanted more money that day. Clein assented and the two men went to the bank, where Clein withdrew $1000 and gave it to Despres.

         ‘‘In early March, 1994, Despres learned through a newspaper advertisement that the victim was selling a tow truck. Despres called the victim, representing himself as a buyer, and arranged to meet the victim. On March 10, 1994, Despres, accompanied by his fifteen year old son, Chris Despres, met the victim in the parking lot of a Howard Johnson's restaurant on Interstate 95. After a short conversation, the victim agreed to show the tow truck to Despres, who followed the victim northbound on the interstate to exit seventy-two. As they exited, Despres flashed his headlights, causing the victim to pull over and stop on the shoulder of the roadway. Despres pulled over directly behind the victim. After the two men got out of their cars, the victim approached Despres and asked what was going on. Despres responded that he was looking for a gas station. He then fired six shots at the victim. When headlights appeared from behind, Despres jumped back into his car and sped away to his home, driving over the body as he fled from the scene. Moments later, the occupants of the approaching vehicle discovered the victim's body lying on the roadway and notified the police.

         ‘‘Early the following morning, Cynthia Carpenter read about the incident in the newspaper and telephoned the defendant to inform her of the victim's death. The defendant immediately called Clein, who rushed to her apartment in Norwich. When Cynthia Carpenter later called the defendant to tell her that the Connecticut state police were coming to the Carpenters' home to question them about the incident, the defendant and Clein volunteered to come as well. Only after they answered every question asked by the state police, did the defendant and Clein depart.

         ‘‘The defendant continued her relationship with Clein for the next eighteen months despite several unsuccessful attempts to end it. In January, 1995, she resigned from Clein's law firm to look for another position. Nine months later, she left the country to begin a new job in London.

         ‘‘In December, 1995, the police issued a warrant for Clein's arrest and he fled from the state. Thereafter, the defendant was contacted by Scotland Yard and cooperated with British and United States law enforcement authorities in apprehending Clein. Notwithstanding his status as a fugitive, Clein wanted to stay in touch with the defendant. Accordingly, he and the defendant arranged to call each other at designated times, using pay telephone numbers in the United States and London. The defendant then informed the authorities of the time and place of the prearranged calls. Clein was arrested in February, 1996, during one such call from the defendant to a telephone number in California. Upon his arrest, Clein's last words to the defendant were: ‘You set me up . . . .'

         ‘‘Following Clein's arrest, the defendant went to Dublin, Ireland, and was accepted into a commercial law program at University College Dublin. Although she attended courses for about two weeks, she was unable to continue because she could not afford the tuition. She thus began working at a local pub to save the required funds. In November, 1997, the defendant's plans were thwarted when she was arrested in connection with the victim's murder and imprisoned in Ireland for nineteen months.

         ‘‘In June, 1999, the defendant waived extradition, was arraigned in New London Superior Court and was charged with capital felony, murder as an accessory and conspiracy to commit murder. After a two month trial, the jury returned a verdict of guilty on all three counts. The court merged the capital felony and murder convictions and sentenced the defendant on those two counts to a term of life imprisonment without the possibility of release. On the count of conspiracy to commit murder, the court sentenced the defendant to a term of twenty years imprisonment to be served concurrently with the preceding sentence.'' (Footnote omitted.) Id., 789-94. Our Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of conviction on direct appeal. Id., 789.

         The petitioner initiated the present habeas corpus action in January, 2013, and in her amended petition for a writ of habeas corpus, the petitioner alleged, inter alia, that she was unlawfully confined as a result of the ineffective assistance of her trial counsel, Attorneys Hugh Keefe and Tara Knight.[1] With respect to those claims, the petitioner alleged that her trial counsel failed to adequately (1) counsel her regarding the advantages of ...


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