Superior Court of Connecticut, Judicial District of Tolland, Rockville, Geographic Area 19
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION
D. Oliver, J.
petitioner, James Thomas, initiated this petition for a writ
of habeas corpus claiming that his first habeas counsel and
underlying trial counsel provided him ineffective legal
representation. He seeks an order of this court vacating his
convictions and returning the matter to the criminal court
with instructions to allow the petitioner to accept a
twenty-year plea offer. The respondent denies the
petitioner's claims and asserts a claim of procedural
default. The court finds the issues for the respondent and
DENIES the petition.
petitioner was the defendant in State of Connecticut v.
James Thomas, Docket Number CR03-0188268, in the
Fairfield Judicial District in the Bridgeport Geographical
Area court. On March 22, 2004, the petitioner was convicted,
after a jury trial, of one count of murder, in violation of
General Statutes § 53a-54a(a). On May 14, 2004, the
trial court, Harper, J., sentenced the petitioner to a total
effective sentence of sixty years to serve. The petitioner
was represented at all relevant times, for both trial and
appeal, by attorney Jeffrey Beck.
petitioner's convictions were affirmed on direct appeal.
State v. Thomas, 98 Conn.App. 384, 909 A.2d 57,
cert. denied, 281 Conn. 906, 916 A.2d 47 (2007). In affirming
the judgment below, the court made the following relevant
Teresa Alers knew both the defendant and Henry Goforth,
with whom she sold narcotics. She saw the two men together
on the evening of October 7, 1999. A dispute ensued that
night over money Goforth allegedly owed the defendant. When
the defendant demanded payment, Goforth indicated that he
had no money. At approximately 6 a.m. on the morning of
October 8, 1999, Goforth's body was found under a
stairwell outside building fifteen of the P.T. Barnum
apartment complex (complex) in Bridgeport. Detective
Tijuana Webbe of the Bridgeport police department arrived
shortly thereafter and observed wounds to the face, head,
neck and chest of the body.
That afternoon, Alers, Persons and two other females were
seated in a vehicle across from a mini-mart in the complex.
They observed the defendant toss a bag into a dumpster
adjacent to the mini-mart. After the defendant left, all
four headed to the dumpster. Alers testified that they
thought that the bag contained narcotics. When they opened
the dumpster, they saw the bag on top of a pile of
cardboard. Persons opened the bag, looked inside and
screamed, " He ain't going to get away with
this." Persons took the bag to a police officer
nearby, who forwarded it to Webbe. Among the items Webbe
discovered in the bag were a handle with a broken blade and
a broken knife that had " Goforth" written on it.
Medical examiner Arkady Katsnelson performed an autopsy,
which revealed multiple stab wounds to Goforth's body.
Notably, Katsnelson found the blade of a knife, which had
penetrated Goforth's left lung, lodged completely
inside the body. Karen Lamy, a criminalist with the state
forensic science laboratory, testified that the blade
recovered from Goforth's body and the handle recovered
from the bag found in the dumpster were parts of the same
knife. The defendant subsequently was arrested and charged
with murder in violation of § 53a-54a(a). After a
trial by jury, the defendant was found guilty, and the
court rendered judgment accordingly." State v.
Thomas, supra, 98 Conn.App. at 385-86.
6, 2009, the petitioner filed a petition for a writ of habeas
corpus, assigned Docket Number CV-04-4000131. He was
represented by attorney Melissa Toddy in that matter. In the
five-count amended complaint, the petitioner asserted a
Brady/Giglio violation, prosecutorial impropriety,
ineffective assistance of underlying counsel, ineffective
assistance of appellate counsel, and failure of underlying
counsel to advise the petitioner of his right to sentence
review (Ex. 7). The amended petition did not raise any issue
related to a lapsed plea offer.
March 5, 2010, the court, Fuger, J., denied the petition. The
judgment was affirmed on appeal. Thomas v. Comm'r of
Corr., 141 Conn.App. 465, 62 A.3d 534, cert. denied, 308
Conn. 939, 66 A.3d 881 (2013). The petitioner was also
represented by attorney Toddy on appeal. On October 10, 2013,
the petitioner filed the pro se petition giving rise
to the instant matter. In his two-count second amended
petition, filed on February 3, 2016, the petitioner makes the
following claims against underlying trial counsel, Jeffrey
1. That counsel advised the petitioner to take his case to
trial without explaining the evidence against him;
2. That counsel advised the petitioner that he would almost
certainly win at trial;
3. That counsel did not advise the petitioner of a plea deal
offered by the State prior to trial;
4. That counsel gave affirmative misadvice to the petitioner
concerning the choice to go to trial; and
5. That counsel gave affirmative misadvice to the petitioner
about the evidence against the petitioner.
first habeas counsel, the petitioner asserts that attorney
Toddy was constitutionally inadequate in that she failed to
bring all of the ...