EDDIE RODRIGUEZ v. COMMISSIONER OF CORRECTION, SC 18940

Judicial District of Tolland †

 

†† ††Habeas; Whether Defense Counselís Prosecution on Criminal Charges Shortly Before the Petitionerís Criminal Trial Created a Conflict of Interest. †The petitioner was represented by attorney Frank Cannatelli in his underlying criminal case.† At the same time, Cannatelli was facing charges of bribery of a witness in an unrelated case.† Shortly before the petitionerís criminal trial, Cannatelli was acquitted of the charges.† Thereafter, Cannatelli represented the petitioner at trial, and the petitioner was found guilty of several crimes, including first degree burglary and attempt to commit first degree assault.† Subsequently, the petitioner brought this habeas action, alleging that Cannatelli had provided ineffective assistance due to an actual conflict of interest.† The habeas court denied the habeas petition.† Before the Appellate Court (131 Conn. App. 336), the petitioner claimed that Cannatelliís prosecution created a conflict of interest pursuant to Phillips v. Warden, 220 Conn. 112 (1991).† In that case, the petitionerís defense counsel was appealing his own murder conviction at the same time he was representing the petitioner in his criminal trial.† The Supreme Court determined that defense counselís representation created a constitutionally impermissible risk that the jury would identify the conduct of defense counsel with the conduct of the petitioner and would impute the improprieties of defense counsel to the petitioner.† The Phillips court held that, because of this constitutionally impermissible risk, it was a breach of the duty of loyalty, and thus a conflict of interest, for defense counsel to have represented the petitioner.† Here, the Appellate Court acknowledged that one of the factors that the Phillips court considered in finding a conflict of interestóthat the criminal trials of both the petitioner and defense counsel took place in the same judicial districtówas also present here.† Ultimately, however, the court determined that this case was distinguishable from Phillips.† Specifically, the court pointed out that (1) Cannatelli, unlike defense counsel in Phillips, had been found not guilty of the charges prior to the petitionerís trial, (2) the media coverage of Cannatelliís criminal case was minimal compared to that attending defense counselís murder trial in Phillips, and (3) Cannatelli, unlike defense counsel in Phillips, asked each venireperson whether he or she had any prior knowledge of him.† Additionally, the court observed that, unlike in Phillips where both defense counsel and the petitioner were charged with violent crimes, the crimes for which Cannatelli was prosecuted and the crimes with which the petitioner was charged did not overlap.† Thereafter, the court ruled that the constitutionally impermissible risk identified in Phillips did not exist here and, accordingly, that the petitioner had failed to demonstrate a conflict of interest of constitutional magnitude.† The Supreme Court will review the Appellate Courtís decision.†