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Walker v. Commissioner of Correction

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

October 3, 2017

JAMES E. WALKER
v.
COMMISSIONER OF CORRECTION

          Argued June 1, 2017

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

          Nancy L. Walker, deputy assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Patrick Griffin, state's attorney, and Rebecca Barry, assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (respondent).

          Sheldon, Keller and Elgo, Js.

         Syllabus

         The petitioner sought a writ of habeas corpus, claiming that his trial counsel had provided ineffective assistance. Specifically, the petitioner alleged that trial counsel's prior relationship with D, a witness for the state in the criminal case, created an actual conflict of interest and that his right to due process had been violated by his exclusion from an in-chambers conference regarding trial counsel's alleged conflict of interest. The habeas court rendered judgment denying the petition, concluding that there was insufficient evidence to establish an actual conflict of interest and that the petitioner had abandoned his due process claim. Thereafter, the petitioner, on the granting of certification, appealed to this court. Held:

         1. There was no merit to the petitioner's claim that the habeas court improperly concluded that he failed to establish that trial counsel's prior relationship with D had created an actual conflict of interest with respect to his representation of the petitioner; there was no indication in the record that trial counsel simultaneously represented the petitioner and D, the petitioner failed to identify any specific instances in the record that suggested that trial counsel's limited interaction with D impaired or compromised the petitioner's interests for the benefit of D, and the record supported the habeas court's findings that trial counsel had advocated strenuously on the petitioner's behalf and that counsel's performance had contributed significantly to the jury's finding the petitioner not guilty of one of the charged offenses.

         2. The habeas court properly concluded that the petitioner had abandoned his due process claim that he was denied his constitutional right to be present at an in-chambers conference regarding trial counsel's alleged conflict of interest; the petitioner abandoned his due process claim as a result of his failure to brief it before the habeas court, as he did not address the claim in his posttrial brief and posttrial reply brief, nor did he attempt to amend his posttrial brief or otherwise seek to have the court reconsider its decision not to address the claim.

         Procedural History

         Amended petition for a writ of habeas corpus, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Tolland and tried to the court, Oliver, J.; judgment denying the petition, from which the petitioner, on the granting of certification, appealed to this court. Affirmed.

          OPINION

          ELGO, J.

         The petitioner, James E. Walker, appeals from the judgment of the habeas court denying his amended petition for a writ of habeas corpus. On appeal, the petitioner claims that the court improperly concluded that (1) his defense counsel did not have an actual conflict of interest at the time of his representation of the petitioner and (2) he abandoned his due process claim that he was denied his right to be present at an in-chambers conference. We affirm the judgment of the habeas court.

         In the underlying criminal proceeding, the petitioner was charged with two counts of assault in the first degree by means of the discharge of a firearm in violation of General Statutes §§ 53a-59 (a) (5) and 53a-8, and one count of conspiracy to commit assault in the first degree in violation of General Statutes §§ 53a-48 and 53a-59 (a) (5). State v. Walker, 147 Conn.App. 1, 6, 82 A.3d 630 (2013), aff'd, 319 Conn. 668, 126 A.3d 1087 (2015). The charges arose from the nonfatal shooting of two persons. Id., 4.

         Following a trial, the jury found the petitioner guilty of conspiracy to commit assault in the first degree and not guilty of assault in the first degree, either as an accessory or as a principal. Id., 6. The court thereafter sentenced the petitioner to a total of nineteen years incarceration, and the petitioner appealed to this court. Id.

         On direct appeal, this court determined, inter alia, that the record was inadequate to review the petitioner's conflict of interest claim and affirmed the judgment of conviction. Id., 15-16. Our Supreme Court thereafter affirmed our judgment. State v. Walker, 319 Conn. 668, 126 A.3d 1087 (2015).

         The petitioner subsequently filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. At the habeas trial, the petitioner alleged that defense counsel, Attorney Richard Silverstein, provided him with ineffective legal representation based on a conflict of interest and alleged due process violations.[1] In its detailed and thorough memorandum of decision, the habeas court rejected those claims, concluding that there was insufficient evidence in the record to establish an actual conflict of interest on the part of defense counsel. In addition, the court determined that the petitioner's due process claim had been abandoned. Accordingly, the court denied the petition for a writ of habeas corpus, and this certified appeal followed.

         I

         The petitioner first claims that the court improperly concluded that he failed to establish an actual conflict of interest.[2] Specifically, he argues that defense counsel's prior relationship with James Dickerson, one of the state's witnesses in its case against the petitioner, created an actual conflict of interest. The respondent, the Commissioner of Correction, contends that the court's ...


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