TERRELL STATON v. COMMISSIONER OF CORRECTION, SC 19309

Judicial District of Tolland at Rockville

 

†††† †Habeas; Ineffective Assistance of Counsel; Whether the Petitioner Failed to Satisfy the Prejudice Prong of Strickland v. Washington by Showing that, but for Trial Counselís† Errors, the Outcome Would Have Been Different.† A Danbury police officer observed a car make a right turn without coming to a complete stop.† He ran the carís license plates, and when he learned that they were registered to another car, he activated his emergency lights and siren and contacted police dispatch.† The petitioner, who allegedly was the driver and sole occupant of the car, jumped out of and fled from the car while it was still moving and it crashed into oncoming traffic.† The police officer followed the petitioner to a building with a rear parking lot enclosed by a fence.† He lost sight of the petitioner and waited for other police officers to arrive, including a trooper from the state police canine unit and his dog.† The trooper and his dog went to the abandoned car so that the dog could identify the scent of the driver, and the dog tracked the scent to the parking lot.† After conducting a search of the nearby area, the trooper and his dog returned to the parking lot, where the dog resumed tracking and began barking when he encountered the bushes at the edge of the lot.† The petitioner was found hiding in the bushes.† He was charged with reckless endangerment, interfering with a police officer, and motor vehicle offenses.† At trial, the petitioner claimed that his friend, Warren Battle, was the driver of the car and that the petitioner had been in the parking lot because he was searching for Battle and the car after receiving a telephone call from Battle.† The petitioner was convicted, and he brought this habeas action, claiming that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to call Battle as a witness and by failing to obtain a capias for Battle.† He claimed that Battle would have testified that he, and not the petitioner, was the driver of the car, thereby corroborating the petitionerís mistaken identity defense and raising reasonable doubt.† The habeas court rejected the petitionerís claim and denied certification to appeal, concluding that the petitioner had established neither deficient performance nor prejudice under Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984).† The Appellate Court (148 Conn. App. 427) dismissed the petitionerís ensuing appeal.† It did not reach the performance prong of Strickland because it held that the habeas court did not err in determining that the petitioner did not prove prejudice; that is, that he did not demonstrate a reasonable probability that, but for trial counselís failure to call Battle as a witness or obtain a capias, he would not have been found guilty.† The Appellate Court determined that there was substantial evidence to support the habeas courtís conclusion regarding prejudice, given, among other things, Battleís contradictory testimony during the habeas trial and the fact that a police officer identified the petitioner as the person who left the scene of the crime.† The Supreme Court will determine in this certified appeal whether the Appellate Court properly dismissed the petitionerís habeas appeal on the ground that he failed to satisfy the prejudice prong of Strickland v. Washington.