November 13, 2017
Stephen A. Lebedevitch, assigned counsel, for the appellant
Timothy J. Sugrue, assistant state's attorney, with whom,
on the brief, were Maureen Platt, state's attorney, and
Eva B. Lenczewski, supervisory assistant state's
attorney, for the appellee (respondent).
Lavine, Sheldon and Harper, Js.
petitioner, Donald Fields, appeals from the judgment of the
habeas court denying his amended petition for a writ of
habeas corpus, in which he collaterally challenged his thirty
year sentence for felony murder on the ground of ineffective
assistance of counsel. In his petition, the petitioner
claimed that his trial counsel, John Paul Carroll, rendered
ineffective assistance by failing to advise him before trial
of the state's offer that he resolve the charges against
him by pleading guilty to felony murder in exchange for a
recommended sentence of twenty-five years to serve. The
habeas court rejected that claim on the ground that, although
Carroll had indeed rendered constitutionally deficient
performance by failing to advise the petitioner of the
state's twenty-five year plea offer, the petitioner had
not been prejudiced by that deficient performance.
Specifically, the court concluded that he had not proved, by
a fair preponderance of the evidence, that he would have
accepted the offer had Carroll conveyed it to him.
appeal, the petitioner claims that the habeas court erred in
concluding that he had not been prejudiced by Carroll's
constitutionally deficient performance because there was no
evidence in the record tending to show that he would not have
accepted the offer, and, thus, the court's finding to
that effect was entirely speculative.
we are troubled by the facts of this case concerning
Carroll's deficient performance, we must keep in mind
that, in assessing the habeas court's finding as to
prejudice, ‘‘[i]t is simply not the role of this
court on appeal to second-guess credibility determinations
made by the habeas court.'' Noze v.
Commissioner of Correction, 177 Conn.App. 874, 887,
A.3d (2017). Accordingly, on the basis of the court's
credibility based rejection of the petitioner's claim
that he would have accepted the state's plea offer had it
been conveyed to him, we affirm the judgment of the habeas
court's memorandum of decision sets forth the following
relevant facts and procedural history. ‘‘The
petitioner was convicted after a jury trial of felony murder
in violation of General Statutes § 53a-54c, attempt to
commit robbery in the first degree in violation of General
Statutes §§ 53a-49 (a) (2) and 53a-134 (a) (1), and
conspiracy to commit robbery in the first degree in violation
of General Statutes §§ 53a-48 and 53a-134 (a) (2).
The trial court sentenced the petitioner to thirty years in
prison, followed by twenty years of special parole. The
petitioner was represented before and during trial by . . .
petitioner appealed his convictions to the Supreme Court,
which affirmed them. State v. Fields, 265
Conn. 184, 827 A.2d 690 (2003). . . . The petitioner was
sixteen at the time of [the] crime and seventeen at the time
of his trial.
petitioner's sole claim was tried to the [habeas] court
over two days. The court heard the testimony of three
witnesses: State's Attorney John Davenport, the
petitioner, and [Carroll]. The court also received as exhibits the
transcripts from the petitioner's criminal trial and
sentencing, the presentence investigation report . . .
delivered to the court prior to sentencing, the mittimus
reflecting the petitioner's sentence, and the Supreme
Court's decision from the petitioner's
appeal.'' (Footnote added.)
habeas trial, the petitioner testified that he and Carroll
never discussed a plea deal from the state, but that the
offer of twenty-five years to serve was
‘‘something that [the petitioner] would have
accepted.'' Throughout his cross-examination, the
petitioner iterated that he never asked Carroll about
pleading guilty, but that he did not know he could ask about
making an offer. Moreover, in response to a question about
whether the petitioner would have accepted responsibility in
exchange for the plea offer of twenty-five years, the
petitioner testified: ‘‘If I was offered a-a
small amount of time . . . [o]r not a small amount of time,
but somethin[g] and that was what I had to do . . . to get
the time and accept responsibility, yeah, I would have. If I
was offered the offer, I [would have done] that.''
September 6, 2016, following trial, the court denied the
petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The court concluded
that, although the petitioner had proved that Carroll's
performance was deficient, he had not proved that such
deficient performance had caused him prejudice. In reaching
that conclusion, the court first rejected the
petitioner's testimony that he would have accepted the
plea offer of twenty-five years to serve for felony
murder. The court then specifically found that the
petitioner would have rejected that plea offer had Carroll
conveyed it to him. The court thereafter granted the
petitioner's timely petition for certification to appeal.
This appeal followed.
criminal defendant is constitutionally entitled to adequate
and effective assistance of counsel at all critical stages of
criminal proceedings. . . . This right arises under the sixth
and fourteenth amendments to the United States constitution
and article first, § 8, of the Connecticut constitution.
. . . It ...