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Byrd v. Commissioner of Correction

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

October 10, 2017

HOWARD BYRD
v.
COMMISSIONER OF CORRECTION

          Argued May 24, 2017

         Procedural History

         Amended petition for a writ of habeas corpus, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Tolland, where the court, Fuger, J., denied the petitioner's motion for summary judgment, and granted the respondent's motion for summary judgment and rendered judgment dismissing the habeas petition; thereafter, the court denied the petition for certification to appeal, and the petitioner appealed to this court; subsequently, the court issued an articulation of its decision. Dismissed.

          Temmy Ann Miller, assigned counsel, for the appellant (petitioner).

          Madeline A. Melchionne, assistant attorney general, with whom, on the brief, were George Jepsen, attorney general, and Terrence O'Neill, assistant attorney general, for the appellee (respondent).

          Lavine, Mullins and West, Js.

         Syllabus

         The petitioner sought a writ of habeas corpus, claiming, inter alia, that an ex post facto law passed after he was sentenced improperly invalidated the application of risk reduction credits toward his parole eligibility date. Following cross motions for summary judgment filed by the parties, the habeas court rendered judgment dismissing the petition and, thereafter, denied the petition for certification to appeal, and the petitioner appealed to this court. He claimed that the habeas court abused its discretion in denying his petition for certification to appeal because it committed a number of procedural errors in rendering its decision and improperly concluded that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the petition. Held:

         1. The habeas court properly dismissed count one of the petition for a writ of habeas corpus, which alleged the improper application of an ex post facto law, for lack of subject matter jurisdiction: the petitioner made no claim that legislation regarding eligibility for parole consideration became more onerous after the date of his criminal behavior, but rather claimed that new legislation enacted in 2011, one year after his criminal conduct, conferred a benefit on him that was taken away in 2013, which did not implicate the ex post facto prohibition because the changes that occurred between 2011 and 2013 had no bearing on the punishment to which the petitioner's criminal conduct exposed him when he committed the crime for which he was convicted in 2010; accordingly, the habeas court did not abuse its discretion in denying the petition for certification to appeal as to count one.

         2. The habeas court properly dismissed count two of the habeas petition, in which the petitioner alleged that he suffered from a heart condition and that, due to the stress of litigating count one, he was entitled to additional credits and conditional medical parole: parole eligibility under statute (§ 54-125a) does not constitute a cognizable liberty interest sufficient to invoke habeas jurisdiction, the claim in count two was wholly dependent on count one, over which this court lacked subject matter jurisdiction, and it was unclear what relief was sought in count two by the petitioner, who asked the court for medical compensation and an early release due to his failing health, but did not assert that he was illegally confined or that he had been wrongly deprived of his liberty; accordingly, the habeas court properly determined that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over count two and did not abuse its discretion in denying the petition for certification to appeal as to that count.

          OPINION

          LAVINE, J.

         The petitioner, Howard Byrd, appeals following the denial of his petition for certification to appeal from the judgment of the habeas court dismissing his second amended petition for a writ of habeas corpus (petition).[1] He asserts a number of claims on appeal, but his primary claim is that the habeas court improperly concluded that it did not have subject matter jurisdiction over his ex post facto claim alleged in count one of his petition. We conclude that the habeas court properly determined that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over both counts of his petition[2] and, therefore, did not abuse its discretion by denying the petitioner's petition for certification to appeal.[3] Accordingly, we dismiss the appeal.[4]

         The facts and procedural history of this case present us with a tangled web of litigation. On September 13, 2010, the petitioner was arrested and was held in presentence confinement by the respondent, the Commissioner of Correction, for a crime that took place on that same day. On January 27, 2012, he pleaded guilty to burglary in the first degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-101 (a) (1), and the trial court, Kavanewsky, J., sentenced him to eight years imprisonment, five years of which was mandatory, followed by eight years of special parole.

         In 2010, the year in which the petitioner committed the criminal act underlying his conviction, there was no statutory provision that permitted inmates to earn ‘‘good time credits'' to reduce the length of their sentences. In addition, due to the violent nature of the offense for which he was convicted, the petitioner was not eligible for parole consideration before serving 85 percent of his sentence. See General Statutes (Rev. to 2013) § 54-125a (b).

         In 2011, after the petitioner committed the criminal act but before he was sentenced, the General Assembly passed Number 11-51 of the 2011 Public Acts (P.A. 11-51), codified at General Statutes § 18-98e. Section 18-98e (a) provides that certain inmates who were convicted of crimes committed after October 1, 1994, ‘‘may be eligible to earn risk reduction credit toward a reduction of such person's sentence, in an amount not to exceed five days per month, at the discretion of the Commissioner of Correction . . . .'' At the same time, the General Assembly amended § 54-125a (b), providing that a person convicted of a violent crime would not be eligible for parole consideration ‘‘until such person ...


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