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- Williams v. Commissioner of Correction

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

October 17, 2017

JEFFREY WILLIAMS
v.
COMMISSIONEROF CORRECTION

          Argued May 30, 2017

          Michael W. Brown, for the appellant (petitioner).

          Timothy J. Sugrue, assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Patrick J. Griffin, state's attorney, and Rebecca A. Barry, assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (respondent).

          Sheldon, Mullins and Sullivan, Js.

         Syllabus

         The petitioner sought a writ of habeas corpus, claiming, inter alia, that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to challenge the state's medical evidence by consulting and calling as a witness a medical expert with experience evaluating medical evidence in child sexual abuse cases to rebut certain testimony offered by the state's expert witness, M. The habeas court rendered judgment denying the petition, from which the petitioner, on the granting of certification, appealed to this court.

         Held:

         2. The petitioner could not prevail on his claim that the habeas court improperly determined that he had failed to prove that his trial counsel performed deficiently by failing to present the testimony of a neurosurgeon who had performed back surgery on the petitioner to establish that the petitioner was incapable of physically or sexually abusing the victim, the petitioner having failed to rebut the presumption that trial counsel's decision not to pursue such a theory by calling that witness was based on reasonable professional judgment; that court found that trial counsel had discussed the potential defense of physical incapability with the petitioner but reasonably could have concluded that it was not an adequate defense to the charged crimes, that such a defense would not have been helpful because the jury was not likely to believe it, and that evidence regarding the petitioner's surgery and subsequent recovery would not have been helpful to the theory of defense at trial, which was that the victim had fabricated the allegations to avoid being returned to her mother's care.

         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

          MULLINS, J.

         The petitioner, Jeffrey Williams, appeals from the judgment of the habeas court denying his petition for a writ of habeas corpus. He claims that the court improperly concluded that he failed to prove that his trial attorney provided ineffective assistance of counsel by failing (1) to challenge the state's medical evidence by consulting and calling as a witness a medical expert with experience evaluating medical evidence in child sexual abuse cases, and (2) to present the testimony of John Strugar, a neurosurgeon, who performed back surgery on the petitioner in August, 1999. We affirm the judgment of the habeas court.

         This court's decision in the petitioner's direct appeal sets forth the following relevant facts, which the jury in the petitioner's criminal trial reasonably could have found, and procedural history. ‘‘Between the spring of 1997 and mid-October, 1999, the victim[1] and her three younger sisters lived with their mother, who was the [petitioner's] girlfriend, her uncle and the [petitioner] at various residences in the city of New Haven. The victim was approximately eight years old when the [petitioner] began to abuse her. The [petitioner] beat her about once a week for a variety of reasons. In November, 1997, the [petitioner] knocked the victim to the floor, causing a spiral fracture of her left humerus. The victim was taken to a hospital, but her mother instructed her and her sisters to attribute the injury to the victim's having fallen off her bed. On another occasion, the [petitioner] banged the victim's head on a sink, breaking one of her teeth. When the victim told her mother of the broken tooth, her mother instructed her to go outside and play. The [petitioner] struck the victim with a wooden paddle and on one occasion gave her a black eye. The victim's mother put makeup on the bruise to cover it. The victim's teacher, however, noticed the makeup and bruise. At another time, the school personnel discovered a hickey on the victim's neck. The victim had told her mother that the [petitioner] had given her the hickey. The [petitioner] convinced her mother that someone else had given the victim a hickey and then beat the victim.

         ‘‘Sometime between August and October, 1999, the [petitioner] placed the victim in a situation that was likely to injure her health. When the victim did not comply with the [petitioner's] instructions, he made her put her head out a window and then he poured water over her head. He made her stay there until it was time to go to school.

         ‘‘At night, the [petitioner] would awaken the victim and take her to his room where he told her to rub his back.[2] Initially, the [petitioner] lay face down but would turn over and instruct the victim to rub his lower body. The [petitioner] took the victim's hand and placed it on his penis, at first outside of his boxer shorts and then inside. The [petitioner's] sexual abuse progressed beyond back-rubs and having the victim touch his penis. The [petitioner] began to grope the victim's vagina, buttocks, thighs and undeveloped chest. On three or four occasions, the [petitioner] forced his penis into the victim's vagina.[3] If the victim asked the [petitioner] to stop, he would tell her not to tell him what to do. The victim bled after the first and second rapes and told her mother, who told her she was having her menstrual period. Although the victim reported the abuse to her grandfather, he ...


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