September 13, 2019
from Superior Court, Judicial District of Hartford,
M. Rembish, assigned counsel, for the appellant (petitioner).
W. Bare, assistant states attorney, with whom, on the brief,
were John C. Smriga, states attorney, and Emily Trudeau,
assistant states attorney, for the appellee (respondent).
Bright and Devlin, Js.
Conn.App. 240] The petitioner, Luis Perez, 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 by
denying his petition for certification to appeal, (2)
improperly concluded that his trial counsel did not provide
ineffective assistance, and (3) improperly concluded that his
plea was not coerced or involuntary. We disagree and dismiss
record discloses the following facts and procedural history.
The petitioner was charged in a substitute [194 Conn.App.
241] information with capital felony and related charges. A
death qualified jury had been selected and trial was
scheduled to begin on May 8, 2006. On May 5, 2006, the
petitioner pleaded guilty to two counts of murder and one
count of assault in the first degree. Subsequently, on July
21, 2006, the court sentenced the petitioner to sixty years
December 5, 2014, the petitioner filed his petition for writ
of habeas corpus. His amended petition, submitted on May 31,
2017, alleged that his trial counsel, Attorneys Barry Butler
and Miles Gerety, provided ineffective assistance of counsel
in that they threatened him and coerced his guilty plea in
violation of his right to due process of law. The habeas
court, Sferrazza, J., conducted a trial on November
9, 2017, during which it heard testimony from the petitioner;
his grandmother, Ana Hernandez; Butler; and Gerety. The only
evidence offered by the petitioner in support of his claim
was his testimony and the testimony of Hernandez. The
testimony indicated that, at some point prior to the
petitioners guilty plea, Hernandez and the petitioners
cousin were arrested for tampering with a witness in the
petitioners case. The petitioner and Hernandez both
testified that they then met with Butler and Gerety on May 4,
2006, and, during that meeting, the attorneys threatened the
petitioner that Hernandez and the petitioners cousin would
go to prison if he did not plead guilty. Butler and Gerety
testified that they never used threats of imprisonment for
the petitioners relatives to coerce his guilty plea. Butler
recalled that the petitioner already had decided to plead
guilty by the time of the meeting, but had wanted to consult
Hernandez before entering his plea and requested the May 4,
2006 meeting. Both attorneys further explained that they
accommodated this request, hoping that Hernandez presence
would ease the petitioners mind and "help him make his
decisions rationally ...."
Conn.App. 242] Following the habeas trial, the court issued a
written memorandum of decision. It found that the testimony
of Butler and Gerety was credible, while the testimony of the
petitioner and Hernandez was not credible. Consequently, the
court determined that the petitioner had failed to establish
either of the claims raised in his petition. The court
thereafter denied the amended petition for a writ of habeas
corpus and the petitioners request for certification to
appeal. This appeal followed.
"When the habeas court denies certification to appeal, a
petitioner faces a formidable challenge, as we will not
consider the merits of a habeas appeal unless the petitioner
establishes that the denial of certification to appeal
amounts to an abuse of discretion." Jefferson v.
Commissioner of Correction,144 Conn.App. 767, 772, 73
A.3d 840 (2013), cert. denied, 310 Conn. 929, 78 A.3d 856
(2013). An abuse of discretion exists only when the
petitioner can show "that the issues are debatable among
jurists of reason; that a court could resolve the issues [in
a different manner]; or that the questions are adequate to
deserve encouragement to proceed further." (Emphasis
omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) Simms v.
Warden,230 Conn. 608, 616, 646 A.2d 126 (1994).
"[For this task] ...