April 17, 2018
petition for a writ of habeas corpus, brought to the Superior
Court in the judicial district of Tolland and tried to the
court, Fuger, J.; judgment denying the petition;
thereafter, the court, Fuger, J., denied the
petition for certification to appeal, and the petitioner
appealed to this court; subsequently, the court, Bright,
J., denied the petitioner's motion for articulation;
thereafter, the court, Bright, J., granted in part
the petitioner's motion for rectification; subsequently,
the court, Kwak, J., denied the petitioner's
motion for order. Appeal dismissed.
A. R. Kirschbaum, with whom, on the brief, was Vishal K.
Garg, for the appellant (petitioner).
R. Lockwood, senior assistant state's attorney, with
whom, on the brief, were Anne Mahoney, state's attorney,
and Jo Anne Sulik, supervisory assistant state's
attorney, for the appellee (respondent).
DiPentima, C. J., and Keller and Prescott, Js.
DiPENTIMA, C. J.
petitioner, John Grover, appeals following the denial of his
petition for certification to appeal from the judgment of the
habeas court denying his petition for a writ of habeas
corpus. On appeal, the petitioner claims that the habeas
court (1) abused its discretion in denying his petition for
certification to appeal and (2) erroneously determined that
he was not denied his constitutional rights to counsel free
from conflicts of interest and to the effective assistance of
record reveals the following relevant facts and procedural
history. On October 25, 2013, the petitioner entered a plea
of guilty under the Alford doctrine to one count of
risk of injury to a child in violation of General Statutes
§ 53-21 (a) (2), and, on January 7, 2014, the court
sentenced him to seven years imprisonment followed by ten
years special parole; he also was required to register as a
sex offender for ten years. At the petitioner's plea
hearing, the prosecutor recited the following narrative.
February 2011, the petitioner was in a relationship with the
victim's mother and lived with her and the female victim
in Scotland, Connecticut. At that time, the victim was ten
[February 15, 2011] the victim went to school at Scotland
Elementary School and she made a disclosure [that the
petitioner] had touched her private areas and [had] also used
lotion [on her]. Subsequently, the victim was interviewed the
following day at a child-friendly location forensically.
that interview the victim disclosed [that the petitioner] and
herself were alone in the master bedroom of the residence.
The [petitioner] pulled down the pants of the victim and
lifted up her shirt and began rubbing lotion on her stomach
and on her legs to include also her inner thighs and also her
some point the [petitioner] took a vibrator that he had in
his dresser and then also used that to have contact with [the
victim's] intimate parts . . . . An investigation was
conducted and ultimately an arrest warrant was applied for
and granted charging [the petitioner] with the crime of risk
of injury [to a child] and sexual assault in the first
April 6, 2011, the petitioner was arraigned and bond was set
at $75, 000 cash or surety; the petitioner posted bond the
same day. The petitioner originally was charged with sexual
assault in the first degree in violation of General Statutes
§ 53a-70 (a) (2) and risk of injury to a child in
violation of § 53-21 (a) (2).
to his arrest, the petitioner hired Attorney Jerome Paun to
represent him during the criminal investigation. Following
his arrest, the petitioner and Paun entered into a fee
agreement for the purposes of pretrial representation. The
agreement provided for a fixed fee of $7500 and covered all
work leading up to trial. Under the terms of this same
agreement, once the case was placed on the trial list, Paun
was to be paid $250 an hour with a $5000 retainer to be paid
in full within thirty days of the case being placed on the
trial list. The petitioner was employed when he hired Paun
and was able to pay the $7500 pretrial fee and to post bond
for his release. While the petitioner did not pay the trial
retainer in full, Paun estimated that he was able to pay
$2000 of the $5000 owed.
jury selection, but before trial, the petitioner reached a
plea agreement with the prosecutor pursuant to which he
pleaded guilty to one count of risk of injury to a child in
violation of § 53-21 (a) (2). He was sentenced on
January 7, 2014.
March 4, 2015, the petitioner filed an amended petition for
writ of habeas corpus. Relevant to this appeal, the
petitioner alleged that he was denied his constitutional
right to counsel free from conflicts of interest because Paun
had an actual conflict with respect to his representation of
the petitioner. Specifically, he argued that Paun had a
financial incentive to convince the petitioner to accept a
plea rather than proceed to trial due to the fact that the
petitioner was unable to pay Paun's trial retainer in
full. The petitioner additionally claimed that he was denied
his constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel
because Paun failed (1) to retain or request funding from the
trial court in order to retain a forensic mental health
professional with expertise in investigating and assessing
child sexual abuse allegations and (2) to identify innocent
alternative explanations for the allegations against the
petitioner's habeas trial was held on two separate dates
in October and December, 2015. At trial, the petitioner
presented evidence from Dr. Nancy Eiswirth, an expert witness
in forensic psychology, and Attorney Michael Sheehan, who
testified as a legal expert in the area of criminal defense.
Eiswirth testified that she had reviewed the victim's
forensic interview and had identified several issues with
respect to the manner in which it had been conducted.
Specifically, Eiswirth opined that the interview was not
tailored properly to accommodate the victim's age
andmental development; she also was critical of the
interviewer's failure to rectify contradictions and
ambiguities in the victim's statement. Following this
testimony, Sheehan testified that based on his experience, if
it seemed likely that the forensic ...