March 19, 2018
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;
thereafter, the court granted the petition for certification
to appeal, and the petitioner appealed to this court.
Michael W. Brown, for the appellant (petitioner).
F. Currie-Zeffiro, assistant state's attorney, with whom
were John C. Smriga, state's attorney, and Emily Trudeau,
assistant state's attorney, for the appellee
DiPentima, C. J., and Sheldon and Harper, Js.
petitioner, Eric White, 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 rejected his claims that (1) his right to
due process was violated because his guilty plea was not made
knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily and (2) his right to
effective assistance of counsel was violated because his
attorney failed to adequately research and investigate the
issue of the petitioner's mental state at the time of his
guilty plea and to bring information about the
petitioner's compromised mental state to the attention of
the criminal trial court. We disagree and, accordingly,
affirm the judgment of the habeas court.
following facts and procedural history are relevant to this
appeal. On August 11, 2004, the petitioner, represented by
Attorney Joseph Bruckmann, pleaded guilty under the
Alford doctrine to one count of felony murder in
violation of General Statutes §§ 53a-54c and
53a-54a (a). The trial court indicated that it intended to
sentence the petitioner to fifty years of imprisonment, which
it did on November 5, 2004. The petitioner did not appeal
from his conviction following his plea and sentencing or file
any postjudgment motions.
petitioner petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus on January
8, 2014. After counsel was appointed, the petitioner filed an
amended petition on May 23, 2016, asserting that Bruckmann
had provided ineffective assistance of counsel and that the
petitioner's due process rights had been violated because
his guilty plea was not made knowingly, intelligently and
voluntarily. The thrust of his claims was that medication the
petitioner was taking on the day of his guilty plea
‘‘substantially impacted his ability to
understand the plea agreement and the plea proceedings,
'' that he would not have entered a guilty plea had
he not been so medicated, and that Bruckmann was ineffective
for failing to research and investigate the issue regarding
his mental condition or to bring such information to the
court's attention. (Internal quotation marks omitted.)
habeas trial on September 19, 2016, Bruckmann, the
petitioner, and the petitioner's psychiatric expert,
James Phillips, testified. The petitioner also entered into
evidence the transcripts of his guilty plea and sentencing,
and medical records detailing his medication usage around the
time of his guilty plea. The respondent, the Commissioner of
Correction, offered no evidence.
September 27, 2016, the habeas court issued its memorandum of
decision denying the amended petition for a writ of habeas
corpus. The court credited the testimony of Bruckmann and
Phillips in determining that the petitioner had failed to
establish ineffective assistance of counsel or a due process
violation. In evaluating the transcripts in evidence,
the court observed that Bruckmann and the trial court made
the petitioner aware ‘‘of all necessary
information to make an informed decision . . . whether to
enter a plea or take his case to trial.'' In
considering the petitioner's own testimony, although the
habeas court did not find that testimony completely lacking
in credibility, it found that such testimony was
‘‘wholly insufficient to prove any of the
necessary elements to establish either a due process
violation or a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel.
Contrasted with the other, more credible evidence adduced at
trial, the petitioner's proffered evidence in support of
his claims borders on the frivolous.''
petitioner petitioned the habeas court for certification to
appeal, which the court granted. This appeal followed.
begin with generally applicable legal principles.
‘‘The underlying historical facts found by the
habeas court may not be disturbed unless the findings were
clearly erroneous. . . . Historical facts constitute a
recital of external events and the credibility of their
narrators. . . . Questions of law and mixed questions of law
and fact receive plenary review.'' (Internal
quotation marks omitted.) Crawford v.Commissioner of Correction, 294 Conn. 165, 174, 982
A.2d 620 (2009). ‘‘The application of the habeas
court's factual findings to the ...