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Haughey v. Commissioner of Correction

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

June 6, 2017

NORMAN HAUGHEY
v.
COMMISSIONEROF CORRECTION

          Argued March 9, 2017

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

          Erica A. Barber, assigned counsel, for the appellant (petitioner).

          Michele C. Lukban, senior assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Michael Dearington, former state's attorney, and Rebecca A. Barry, assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (respondent).

          DiPentima, C. J., and Beach and Westbrook, Js.

          OPINION

          WESTBROOK, J.

         Following the habeas court's denial of his amended petition for a writ of habeas corpus, the petitioner, Norman Haughey, 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 discretionin denying his petition for certification to appeal because his mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of release violated the requirement of individualized, proportionate sentencing under the eighth amendment to the United States constitution as articulated in Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460, 132 S.Ct. 2455, 183 L.Ed.2d 407 (2012).[1]The petitioner also claims, for the first time on appeal, that his mandatory sentence of life without the possibility of release violates the Connecticut constitution. We conclude that the habeas court did not abuse its discretion in denying the petition for certification to appeal, and, accordingly, we dismiss the appeal.

         The facts underlying the petitioner's conviction were set forth previously by this court. ‘‘Sometime in the late evening of December 1, 2003, the [petitioner] visited the home of the victims, Donna Sosa and Mary Tomasi, located on Albert Street in Hamden. The [petitioner] was personally familiar with the victims, as his grandmother, with whom he occasionally shared a residence, lived on Green Hill Road, which abutted the victims' property. Intent on acquiring money to support his crack cocaine addiction, the [petitioner] gained access to the victims' home and shortly thereafter attacked Sosa in the kitchen, stabbing her repeatedly in the face, neck and right shoulder. The [petitioner] then proceeded upstairs armed with a ten pound dumbbell retrieved from the living room floor, where he found Tomasi sleeping in her bedroom. After striking Tomasi in the face with the dumbbell, fracturing her skull, the [petitioner] searched through her purse, stealing cash and several blank checks, which he later forged in an attempt to acquire additional funds. Sosa and Tomasi died from these attacks.

         ‘‘The [petitioner] subsequently was arrested and charged with two counts of murder in violation of [General Statutes] § 53a-54a (a), two counts of felony murder (burglary) in violation of [General Statutes] § 53a-54c and one count of capital felony in violation of [General Statutes] § 53a-54b (7). A jury trial followed and the [petitioner] was convicted on all counts. At sentencing, the court merged the conviction of the murder and felony murder charges with the capital felony conviction, imposing a term of life imprisonment without the possibility of release.'' State v. Haughey, 124 Conn.App. 58, 60-61, 3 A.3d 980, cert. denied, 299 Conn. 912, 10 A.3d 529 (2010). This court affirmed the petitioner's convictions on appeal. Id., 75.

         On July 1, 2011, the petitioner filed an initial petition for a writ of habeas corpus, which he amended on January 6, 2015. In his amended petition, the petitioner raised three claims, alleging that (1) his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance ofcounsel; (2) his appellate counsel rendered ineffective assistance of counsel; and (3) his life sentence without the possibility of release is cruel and unusual punishment. The only claim subject to this appeal, however, is the petitioner's claim that his mandatory life sentence violates the eighth amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. A trial on the merits was held before the habeas court on April 7, 8, and 9, 2015. On June 30, 2015, the habeas court issued a memorandum of decision, denying the petitioner's amended petition.

         Thereafter, the petitioner filed a petition for certification to appeal. After the court denied the petition for certification to appeal, this appeal followed. Additional facts will be set forth as necessary.

         We begin by setting forth the ‘‘procedural hurdles that the petitioner must surmount to obtain appellate review of the merits of a habeas court's denial of the habeas petition following denial of certification to appeal. In Simms v. Warden, 229 Conn. 178, 187, 640 A.2d 601 (1994), [our Supreme Court] concluded that . . . [General Statutes] § 52-470 (b) prevents a reviewing court from hearing the merits of a habeas appeal following the denial of certification to appeal unless the petitioner establishes that the denial of certification constituted an abuse of discretion by the habeas court. In Simms v. Warden, 230 Conn. 608, 615-16, 646 A.2d 126 (1994), [our Supreme Court] incorporated the factors adopted by the United States Supreme Court in Lozada v. Deeds, 498 U.S. 430, 431-32, 111 S.Ct. 860, 112 L.Ed.2d 956 (1991), as the appropriate standard for determining whether the habeas court abused its discretion in denying certification to appeal. This standard requires the petitioner to demonstrate that the issues 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. . . . A petitioner who establishes an abuse of discretion through one of the factors listed above must then demonstrate that the judgment of the habeas court should be reversed on its merits. . . . 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 petitioner's underlying claims to determine whether the habeas court reasonably determined that the petitioner's appeal was frivolous.'' (Citations omitted; emphasis in original; internal quotation marks omitted.) Castonguay v. Commissioner of Correction, 300 Conn. 649, 657-58, 16 A.3d 676 (2011).

         I

         The petitioner first claims that the habeas court improperly concluded that he was not entitled to an individualized, proportionate sentencing hearing, as articulated in Miller, because he was twenty-five years old at the time of the subject offenses. We conclude that the court did not abuse its ...


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