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Edwards v. Commissioner of Correction

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

July 31, 2018

MARCELLO EDWARDS
v.
COMMISSIONER OF CORRECTION

          Argued April 19, 2018

         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the Superior Court in the judicial district of Tolland and tried to the court, Oliver, J.; thereafter, the petition was withdrawn in part; judgment denying the petition; subsequently, the court granted the petition for certification to appeal, and the petitioner appealed to this court. Reversed; judgment directed; further proceedings.

          Pamela S. Nagy, assistant public defender, for the appellant (petitioner).

          Laurie N. Feldman, special deputy assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Gail P. Hardy, state's attorney, and Angela R. Macchiarulo, senior assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (respondent).

          Sheldon, Bright and Bear, Js.

          OPINION

          SHELDON, J.

         The petitioner, Marcello Edwards, appeals from the judgment of the habeas court denying his petition for a writ of habeas corpus claiming ineffective assistance of counsel during his criminal trial, which resulted in his conviction of assault in the first degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-59 (a) (1) and the revocation of his probation as a result of his violation of General Statutes § 53a-32. On appeal, the petitioner claims that because his trial counsel, Raul Davila, failed to subject the state's case against him to any meaningful adversarial testing, his claim is controlled by United States v. Cronic, 466 U.S. 648, 104 S.Ct. 2039, 80 L.Ed.2d 657 (1984), and prejudice should be presumed.[1] On that basis, he claims that the habeas court should have granted his petition for a writ of habeas corpus, set aside his conviction and the revocation of his probation, and remanded his case for a new trial. We agree, and therefore reverse the judgment of the habeas court.[2]

         On December 11, 2012, the petitioner was convicted of assault in the first degree in violation of § 53a-59 (a) (1). On December 12, 2012, he was found in violation of his probation. In affirming the petitioner's conviction and the revocation of his probation, this court set forth the following relevant factual and procedural history. ‘‘The victim[3] . . . met the [petitioner] when she was fifteen and he was twenty or twenty-one years old. They began dating at that time and eventually had two children together, [J] and [S]. The [petitioner] physically abused the victim during their relationship. On one occasion, the [petitioner] attacked the victim while she was at work, forcing her to lock herself in the office of a coworker to escape physical harm. On another occasion, when the [petitioner] and the victim argued, he punched her in the head, splitting her lip and rupturing her eardrum. In August, 2009, the relationship ended, and the [petitioner] moved out of the victim's home.

         ‘‘On November 16, 2011, the [petitioner] took [S] to McDonald's after school and later brought her back to his mother's house, where he then lived. Shortly thereafter, the victim arrived to pick up [S] and take her home. Upon returning home, the victim called [J], who was home alone, and asked him to unlock the door to let them in the house. As the victim approached the house, however, the [petitioner] accosted her and stabbed her repeatedly in the head, chest, arm, and thigh. When the victim cried out for help, the [petitioner] fled. [J] ran to the entry of the house, where he saw the victim, lying on the ground, bleeding. He dragged his mother into the house and called 911. After the victim was taken to a hospital, [J] texted the [petitioner], ‘You're not gonna get away with it. You're going to jail.' The [petitioner] responded by text, ‘Fuck you.'

         ‘‘Thereafter, the [petitioner] was arrested and charged with assault in the first degree and violation of probation. The [petitioner] pleaded not guilty to both charges and elected a jury trial on the assault charge.'' (Footnote added.) State v. Edwards, 158 Conn.App. 119, 121-22, 118 A.3d 615, cert. denied, 318 Conn. 906, 122 A.3d 634 (2015).

         ‘‘On the charge of assault in the first degree, the court sentenced the [petitioner] to a term of twenty years of incarceration, of which five years was a mandatory minimum sentence that could not be suspended or reduced. On the charge of violation of probation, the court sentenced the [petitioner] to a term of thirty-seven months incarceration, to be served consecutively to his sentence for first degree assault.'' Id., 130-31.

         On August 9, 2013, the petitioner filed his petition for a writ of habeas corpus in this matter. At his trial before the habeas court, the petitioner made three specific claims as to ways in which Davila was ineffective, namely, that Davila failed to request an additional competency evaluation; that Davila failed to cross-examine the state's witnesses; and that Davila failed to investigate his claimed alibi.

         By way of memorandum of decision filed July 13, 2016, the habeas court rejected the petitioner's claims of ineffective assistance, and thus denied the petitioner's petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The habeas court determined that the petitioner failed to prove that an additional competency evaluation ‘‘would have yielded a result favorable to the petitioner, '' and thus that the petitioner failed to prove that he was prejudiced by Davila's alleged failure to seek an additional competency evaluation. The court determined that Davila's decision not to cross-examine the state's witnesses was a strategic decision as to which he could not have been found to be deficient. The court further found that the petitioner failed ‘‘to point out a line of inquiry on cross-examination of these witnesses that would have been beneficial to the defense . . . .'' Finally, the court found the petitioner's claimed alibi ‘‘unavailing, '' and that the petitioner failed to prove that if ...


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