MICHAEL PIRES, SR.
COMMISSIONER OF CORRECTION
Date: January 17, 2017
from Superior Court, judicial district of Tolland, Oliver, J.
Tsimbidaros, for the appellant (petitioner).
J. Narducci, senior assistant state's attorney, with
whom, on the brief, was Michael L. Regan, state's
attorney, for the appellee (respondent).
Sheldon, Beach and Pellegrino, Js.
petitioner, Michael Pires, Sr., appeals from the judgment of
the habeas court denying his amended petition for a writ of
habeas corpus. He claims that the habeas court erred in
failing to conclude that his trial lawyers provided
ineffective assistance by failing to adequately convey to the
trial court his desire to represent himself. We affirm the
judgment of the habeas court.
following facts and procedural history, drawn from the
Supreme Court's opinion in the petitioner's direct
appeal; see State v. Pires, 310 Conn. 222, 77 A.3d
87 (2013); are relevant to this appeal. The petitioner was
charged with murder in connection with a 2004 drug related
homicide. Id., 225. After several unsuccessful
attempts to dismiss his trial counsel, Special Public
Defender Linda Sullivan, the petitioner and Sullivan attended
a hearing on December 20, 2005, before the trial court,
Handy, J. Id., 225-26. During the hearing,
Sullivan informed Judge Handy that the petitioner had refused
to discuss the case with her. Id., 233. The
petitioner then indicated that he wanted to ‘‘
‘fire' '' Sullivan. Id., 233-34.
After explaining to the petitioner that he was entitled to an
attorney but not necessarily to an attorney of his choice,
Judge Handy instructed the petitioner and Sullivan to convene
privately, work things out, and then return to the courtroom.
Id., 234-35. When they returned, Sullivan told Judge
Handy: ‘‘Well, I did go downstairs and attempt to
talk to [the petitioner]. He did want to discuss strategy
with me. He indicated now that he wishes to represent
himself in this matter. I informed him that I didn't
think Your Honor was going to allow him to represent himself
on a murder charge simply because that would be much too
dangerous and it would not be in his best interest. And
that's about where we stand, Your Honor.''
(Emphasis altered; internal quotation marks omitted.)
Id., 235. The petitioner did not reiterate to the
court a desire to represent himself, nor did Judge Handy
inquire further into the matter. Id.
subsequently filed a motion to withdraw as counsel and, on
March 8, 2006, Judge Handy granted her motion. Judge Handy
appointed attorneys Bruce Sturman and Kevin Barrs to
represent the petitioner. Id., 235. The petitioner
filed a pro se motion to dismiss Sturman and Barrs at the
start of trial on August 2, 2006, but withdrew the motion the
following day. Id., 226. Following a jury trial, the
petitioner was convicted of murder.
to sentencing, the petitioner filed a handwritten
‘‘motion to dismiss, '' which the trial
court, Schimelman, J., addressed at the October 13,
2006 sentencing hearing. Id., 250. During argument
on the motion, the petitioner levied complaints about the
evidence and facts of the case and indicated that he wanted
to ‘‘dismiss'' Barrs and Sturman prior to
the sentencing portion of the hearing. Id. Judge
Schimelman, interpreting the petitioner's motion as a
request for self-representation, denied the
motion and sentenced the petitioner to sixty
years imprisonment. Id., 225, 250-51. The Supreme
Court upheld the petitioner's conviction on direct
appeal. Id., 255.
the petitioner filed an amended petition for a writ of habeas
corpus, alleging a single claim of ineffective assistance of
counsel. The petitioner alleged that he was represented at
trial by Sullivan, Sturman, and Barrs, and that their
‘‘performance was deficient because they failed
to adequately convey to the court that the petitioner wished
to represent himself.'' The petition further alleged
that there is a reasonable probability that,
‘‘but for the petitioner's trial
counsel's deficient performance, '' the result of
the criminal proceedings would have been different.
habeas court held a trial on October 31, 2014, at which
Sullivan, Sturman, and Barrs testified. The petitioner did
not testify. The habeas court denied the petition in a
memorandum of decision filed January 16, 2015. After
concluding that the petitioner's ineffective assistance
claim was collaterally estopped by the Supreme Court's
decision on direct appeal; see footnote 2 of this opinion;
the habeas court also rejected the claim on the merits.
Applying the two-pronged test set forth in Strickland v.
Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80
L.Ed.2d 674 (1984), the habeas court found that the
petitioner's trial counsel did not perform deficiently by
failing adequately to inform the trial court of his desire
for self-representation. The habeas court reasoned that the
record reflected that the petitioner was concerned not with
representing himself, but, rather, with being assigned
counsel of his choosing, obtaining discovery, meeting with
his attorneys, addressing the court, and claiming that
various court personnel were conspiring against him. Thus,
the habeas court concluded that trial counsel did not perform
deficiently because, other than at sentencing,
‘‘there was no clear and unequivocal invocation
for them to convey to the court . . . .'' Following a
grant of certification to appeal, this appeal followed.
petitioner claims that the habeas court erred in concluding
that he did not receive ineffective assistance of counsel. We
habeas court is afforded broad discretion in making its
factual findings, and those findings will not be disturbed
unless they are clearly erroneous. . . . Historical facts
constitute a recital of external events and the credibility
of their narrators. . . . Accordingly, [t]he habeas judge, as
the trier offacts, is the sole arbiter of the credibility of
witnesses and the weight to be given to their testimony. . .
. The application of the habeas court's factual findings
to the pertinent legal standard, however, presents a mixed
question of law and fact, which is subject to ...