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Ross v. Commissioner of Correction

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

March 5, 2019


          Argued January 2, 2019

         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, Sferrazza, J.; judgment denying the petition, from which the petitioner, on the granting of certification, appealed to this court. Affirmed.

          Robert L. O'Brien, assigned counsel, with whom, on the brief, was Christopher Y. Duby, assigned counsel, for the appellant (petitioner).

          Melissa L. Streeto, senior assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Patrick Griffin, state's attorney, and Rebecca Barry, senior assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (respondent).

          Lavine, Elgo and Bear, Js.


          LAVINE, J.

         The petitioner, Maurice Ross, appeals from the judgment of the habeas court denying his amended petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The petitioner claims on appeal that the habeas court improperly rejected his claim that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing (1) to call a toxicologist as an expert witness in order to present an adequate intoxication defense and (2) to object to improprieties in the prosecutor's closing arguments. We affirm the judgment of the habeas court.

         The following facts, as set forth by this court in affirming the petitioner's judgment of conviction, and procedural history are relevant to our disposition of the petitioner's appeal. ‘‘In early February, 2009, the [petitioner] and the victim, Sholanda Joyner, were involved in a romantic relationship. The two had known each other since they were children, and had dated intermittently during the preceding eleven years. The victim's relationship with the [petitioner] was, as the victim's sister described it, ‘dysfunctional . . . .'

         ‘‘Several days before February5, 2009, the [petitioner] went to the victim's apartment on Woolsey Street in New Haven and encountered two of her male acquaintances. A physical altercation between the two men and the [petitioner] ensued, and the [petitioner] was forcefully ejected from the victim's apartment. Shortly thereafter, the [petitioner] purchased a revolver for the purpose of killing the two men. The [petitioner] returned to the victim's apartment the next morning and encountered the individuals who had assaulted him the previous day. After displaying the revolver, the [petitioner] took their money, cell phones, and some drugs. . . .

         ‘‘On February 5, 2009, the victim appeared, crying . . . at her father's doorstep. Approximately two minutes later, the [petitioner] arrived and demanded that the victim leave with him. Over the protests of the victim's stepmother, the [petitioner] grabbed the victim by the arm and pulled her out the door. Later that evening, at the home of the victim's grandmother, the victim was crying and pleading with the [petitioner] to leave her alone. The [petitioner] again commanded the victim to depart with him, and the two left.

         ‘‘After leaving the house of the victim's grandmother at approximately 11 p.m., the [petitioner] and the victim walked to the victim's apartment. Along the way, the victim stopped and purchased some ecstasy pills and phencyclidine (PCP). The victim and the [petitioner] smoked the PCP while en route to the victim's apartment. After arriving at the victim's home, the [petitioner] and the victim went into the victim's bedroom, and both of them ingested ecstasy. At some point, the [petitioner] retrieved a revolver and asked the victim if she had ‘set [him] up . . . .' The [petitioner] then fired one gunshot into her head, intentionally killing her. . . .

         ‘‘The [petitioner] was arrested and charged with murder in violation of [General Statutes] § 53a-54a (a), and carrying a pistol or revolver without a permit in violation of [General Statutes] § 29-35 (a). At trial, the [petitioner] testified and admitted that he shot the victim. He claimed, however, that the gun had fired accidentally. The jury found the [petitioner] guilty of both charges. The court subsequently sentenced him to a total effective term of sixty years in prison.'' (Footnote omitted.) State v. Ross, 151 Conn.App. 687, 688-91, 95 A.3d 1208, cert. denied, 314 Conn. 926, 101 A.3d 271 (2014). On April 28, 2017, the petitioner filed an amended petition for writ of habeas corpus. On November 6, 2017, after a trial, the habeas court denied the petition and on November 15, 2017, granted the petitioner's petition for certification to appeal. This appeal followed. Additional facts will be set forth as necessary.

         ‘‘It is well established that [a] 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. . . . As enunciated in Strickland v. Washington, [466 U.S. 668, 687, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984)], this court has stated: It is axiomatic that the right to counsel is the right to the effective assistance of counsel. . . . A claim of ineffective assistance of counsel consists of two components: a performance prong and a prejudice prong. To satisfy the performance prong . . . the petitioner must demonstrate that his attorney's representation was not reasonably competent or within the range of competence displayed by lawyers with ordinary training and skill in the criminal law. . . . The second prong is . . . satisfied if the petitioner can demonstrate that there is a reasonable probability that, but for that ineffectiveness, the outcome would have been different. . . . An ...

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