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Andrews v. Commissioner of Correction

Appellate Court of Connecticut

November 5, 2019

Lawrence ANDREWS
v.
COMMISSIONER OF CORRECTION

         Argued September 9, 2019

         Appeal From Superior Court, Judicial District of New Haven, Sferrazza, J.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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          Patrick S. White, assigned counsel, with whom, on the brief, was Christopher Y. Duby, assigned counsel, for the appellant (petitioner).

         Timothy J. Sugrue, assistant state’s attorney, with whom on the brief, were Maureen Platt, state’s attorney, and Marc G. Ramia, senior assistant state’s attorney, for the appellee (respondent).

         DiPentima, C. J., and Keller and Moll, Js.

          OPINION

         MOLL, J.

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          [194 Conn.App. 179] The petitioner, Lawrence Andrews, appeals from the denial of his second amended petition for a writ of habeas corpus following the denial of his petition for certification to appeal. On appeal, the petitioner claims that the habeas court (1) abused its discretion in denying his petition for certification to appeal and (2) erroneously concluded that he failed to establish that his state and federal constitutional rights to the effective assistance of counsel were violated.[1] We conclude that the habeas court did not abuse its discretion [194 Conn.App. 180] in denying the petition for certification to appeal and, accordingly, dismiss the appeal.

         The following facts, as set forth by our Supreme Court in the petitioner’s direct appeal from his conviction and as recited by the habeas court in its memorandum of decision, and procedural history are relevant to our disposition of the appeal. "On March 21, 1999, a tenant at 17 Burton Street in the city of Waterbury went to the basement to retrieve his bicycle and discovered the partially clothed body of the victim, Michelle McMaster, lying on the floor. A police investigation subsequently determined that the cause of her death was asphyxia by manual strangulation and that the evidence also was consistent with a sexual assault.

         "For nearly one decade, the police were unable to solve the crime. In 2008 and 2009, however, a purported eyewitness, Donna Russell, was interviewed on several occasions by detectives from the Waterbury Police Department and gave three increasingly detailed written statements regarding what she had seen. In her statements, Russell disclosed that, on the evening of March 20, 1999, she went to the basement of 17 Burton Street, a local drug hangout, for the purpose of using heroin. Upon her arrival, four other people already were there: the [petitioner], Barry Smith, a man she did not know but who later was identified from a photographic array as Orenthain Daniel, and the victim. As Russell proceeded to inject herself with heroin, she heard the [petitioner] and the victim arguing about money or drugs. The argument quickly escalated, and a struggle ensued, during which the victim was knocked down. Afraid that something ‘horrible’ was about to happen, Russell decided to flee. The last thing she saw upon escaping from the basement was the [petitioner] bending over the victim and choking her, Smith holding down her arms, and Daniel pulling down her pants. She also [194 Conn.App. 181] heard the victim gasping for air and pleading for Russell’s help, and the men saying they were going to have sex with her one way or another." State v. Andrews, 313 Conn. 266, 270-71, 96 A.3d 1199 (2014).

         Our Supreme Court in Andrews also set forth the following additional facts. On March 6, 2009, the petitioner was arrested and charged with murder. Id., at 271 and n.2, 96 A.3d 1199. "On March 7, 2009, the day after the [petitioner] was arrested and charged with murder, he gave oral and written statements to the police regarding

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his involvement in the crime. In his statements, the [petitioner] explained that, in 1999, he was a ‘runner’ who referred drug purchasers to drug sellers and received drugs in exchange for the referrals. In March, 1999, he brought the victim to a drug seller for a $100 purchase of crack cocaine and received $30 worth of crack cocaine in return. He and the victim then went to the basement of a house on Burton Street ‘where lots of people go to get high.’ Smith, who also was in the basement, began to argue with the victim about giving him some of her crack cocaine. Smith then hit the victim in her face, which caused her to fall down. Believing that the crack cocaine was in one of the victim’s hands, which was clenched, and knowing that she had a fairly large quantity of the substance, the [petitioner] explained in his signed, written statement: ‘I thought to myself, why should [Smith] get all the crack? ... I want to get some for myself, so I went at [the victim]. [The victim] was trying to wrestle out from under [Smith], so I went up to the top of her head and tried to control her head and get the crack. It was a frenzy. I grabbed her by the neck and, at one point to control her, I hit her in the head a couple [of] times. When I had her by the neck, I was squeezing her neck, trying to knock the wind out of her. After I had her by the neck, my hands were mostly on her chest and shoulders, but I did grab her neck a couple more times. Then [194 Conn.App. 182] [Smith] started to choke her, and she started to go out, by that, I mean, pass out. Then another guy jumped [in], and he hit her in the stomach. At one point, [Smith] got a metal thing. It was like some frame of a table or chair and [he] started to swing at [the victim]. It hit both me and her. All the while, [Smith] was still choking her. I was trying to grab at her hand to get the crack, but she wouldn’t let go. When this was all going on, I remember seeing [Russell] .... I’m not sure when [Russell] left. The third guy started to pull [the victim’s] pants down and then [Smith] pulled up her shirt; this is when [the victim] let go of the crack, when she tried to hold her pants so they wouldn’t get down. [Smith] started to choke her again, and, eventually, she went out. When I mean she went out, her eyes were closed, she wasn’t fighting no more. I don’t know if she was dead or not, but she wasn’t moving. I don’t even know if she was breathing. The third guy was still pulling her pants down. I knew this was bad, so I got up and got out of there. I don’t know what happened to the crack. I’m sure someone tried to get it off the floor.’ The [petitioner] later identified Smith and Daniel from photographic arrays as the other two participants in the incident." Id., at 311-13, 96 A.3d 1199.

         By way of its operative substitute information filed on April 27, 2011, the state charged the petitioner with murder in violation of General Statutes § § 53a-8 and 53a-54a (a), and felony murder, based on the predicate felony of attempted robbery, in violation of General Statutes § 53a-54c.[2] The case was tried to a jury over the course of approximately two weeks in May and June, 2011. The petitioner, who was represented by Attorney Eroll Skyers, testified at trial. The petitioner’s theory of defense was that he was not present at the [194 Conn.App. 183] Burton Street residence on the night of the victim’s murder, he had not seen the victim for a couple of years prior to 1999, and his statement to the police following his arrest had been the product of deception. Following trial, the jury acquitted the petitioner of murder, but convicted him of felony murder. Subsequently, the trial

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court sentenced the petitioner to thirty-five years of incarceration. The petitioner appealed to our Supreme Court, which affirmed the judgment of conviction. See State v.Andrews, ...


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