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Robert S. v. Commissioner of Correction

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

November 19, 2019

ROBERT S.
v.
COMMISSIONER OF CORRECTION [*]

          Argued September 11, 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; thereafter, the court denied the petition for certification to appeal, and the petitioner appealed to this court. Appeal dismissed.

          James E. Mortimer, assigned counsel, for the appellant (petitioner).

          Lawrence J. Tytla, supervisory assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (respondent).

          Keller, Bright and Bear, Js.

          OPINION

          BEAR, J.

         The petitioner, Robert S., appeals following the denial of his amended 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) improperly concluded that he failed to establish that he had received ineffective assistance from his trial counsel because they failed to conduct a proper investigation and to advise him of the viability of an intoxication defense. We conclude that the habeas court did not abuse its discretion in denying the petition for certification to appeal and, accordingly, dismiss the petitioner's appeal.

         The habeas court's memorandum of decision sets forth the following relevant facts and procedural history: ‘‘In the early hours of April 20, 2004, in New London, the petitioner visited the apartment of his former girlfriend [F, who was also the mother of his son]. While there, he stabbed [F] multiple times as well as stabbing a neighbor . . . . While [F] sought refuge in [the neighbor's] apartment, the petitioner barricaded himself, his fifteen month old son . . . and [F's] ten year old sister . . . in [F's] apartment.

         ‘‘When the police arrived and pleaded with the petitioner to permit them to enter the apartment, the petitioner falsely warned them that he had a gun and would commence shooting if anyone tried to enter. The police could hear [F's sister] screaming for help but could not break down the metal door to the apartment.

         ‘‘Eventually, the petitioner unlocked the door, and the police discovered that the petitioner stabbed to death [both children]. The petitioner stabbed [F's sister] eleven times frontally and ten times in her back. She had six wounds to her neck. The petitioner stabbed [his son approximately] fourteen times, the blows distributed to the toddler's neck, scalp, chest, and abdomen. . . .

         ‘‘[T]he petitioner faced capital felony charges which allowed for imposition of the death penalty or life imprisonment without possibility of parole upon conviction. Murder of two persons in the course of a single transaction was a capital felony in 2004. See General Statutes § 53a-54b (7). The petitioner previously withdrew claims involving retroactive application of State v. Santiago, 318 Conn. 1');">318 Conn. 1, [122 A.3d 1] (2015).[1]

         ‘‘A bifurcation of the criminal trial into proceedings determining guilt and those pertaining to penalty was required in death penalty cases. See General Statutes § 53a-46a. Upon conviction of a capital offense, the fact finder then received evidence and argument concerning the existence or nonexistence of aggravating and mitigating circumstances in weighing whether the death penalty was appropriate. If not, then the accused received a life sentence without possibility of parole.

         ‘‘After extensive investigation . . . [the petitioner's trial counsel], Attorneys [Bruce] Sturman and [Fred] DeCaprio, [2] were able to negotiate a plea disposition to the charges [against the petitioner] in exchange for the state's abandonment of its quest for the death penalty. On May 11, 2007, the petitioner pleaded ...


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