ROBERT BRETON v. COMMISSIONER OF CORRECTION, SC 19072
Judicial District of Tolland
††† †Habeas; Whether Counsel in Capital Proceeding Rendered Ineffective Assistance in Failing to Present Evidence of Intoxication, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Extreme Emotional Disturbance; Whether Petitioner had Right to Effective Assistance of Counsel in Connection with pre-Appeal Petition for New Trial.† The petitioner was convicted of murder and capital felony and sentenced to death in connection with the stabbing deaths of his former wife and son.† He brought this habeas action, claiming that his attorneys rendered ineffective assistance in failing to discover and test a sample of his blood taken forty hours after the crime.† He maintained that testing would have shown that he was abusing methamphetamine, which would have supported a claim of intoxication at the guilt phase of the capital proceeding and constituted a mitigating factor at the penalty phase of the proceeding. †The habeas court rejected that claim, explaining that the petitioner was not prejudiced at the guilt phase because evidence of intoxication, while relevant to negate the element of specific intent, would have been inconsistent with his defense that he did not commit the killings.† It also determined that there was no prejudice at the penalty phase because the petitioner failed to prove that the level of methamphetamine estimated to have been in his blood at the time of the offense would necessarily lead to violent behavior or intoxication or even that he had used the drug before the murders rather than after them.† Next, the petitioner claimed that his attorneys were ineffective in failing to discover transcripts of interviews he gave to the coroner and the police soon after he stabbed his father to death in 1966, a crime for which he was convicted of manslaughter.† He maintained that review of those transcripts would have led to a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which would have supported defenses of insanity and extreme emotional disturbance (EED).† The habeas court disagreed, ruling that, even if such defenses had been available based on a PTSD diagnosis, counsel would not have been able to assert them in light of the petitionerís refusal to admit his responsibility for the crimes.† The court also rejected the claim that a PTSD diagnosis would have constituted a viable mitigating factor in the penalty phase, ruling that the petitioner could not establish prejudice because he failed to show that the transcripts would have led his psychiatric expert in the criminal trial to a PTSD diagnosis. †Next, the petitioner claimed that his attorneys performed deficiently at the guilt phase of the trial in failing to present an EED defense over his objections.† The court found that the petitioner repeatedly rejected counselís advice to pursue an EED defense because he did not want to admit that he committed the killings and ruled that any attempt to present an EED defense would have been doomed to fail absent the petitionerís cooperation.† Finally, the habeas court rejected the petitionerís claim that he received ineffective assistance of counsel in connection with his post-trial pre-appeal †petition for a new trial.† It ruled that, because there is no constitutional or statutory right to counsel in pursuing a petition for a new trial, the petitioner had no right to the effective assistance of counsel in pursuing that petition.† This is the petitionerís appeal from the habeas courtís judgment denying his petition for a writ of habeas corpus.