WILTON CARRAWAY v. COMMISSIONER OF CORRECTION, SC 19347

Judicial District of Tolland at G.A. 19

 

      Habeas; Ineffective Assistance of Counsel; Whether Habeas Court Applied the Wrong Legal Standard in Determining that Petitioner was not Prejudiced by Ineffective Assistance Leading to Guilty Plea.  The petitioner entered a plea of nolo contendere to one count of assault in the first degree, and he was sentenced to a term of fifteen years pursuant to a plea agreement.  He brought this habeas corpus action, claiming that his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance that rendered his plea involuntary and that, if not for the ineffective assistance, he would not have accepted the plea offer and would have insisted on going to trial.  The habeas court denied the petition on the ground that the petitioner failed to prove that he was prejudiced by his attorney’s allegedly substandard performance in that he did not demonstrate a reasonable probability that the results at a trial would have been more favorable.  In determining that the petitioner was not prejudiced, the habeas court applied the rule enunciated in Copas v. Commissioner of Correction, 234 Conn. 139, 151 (1995), in which the Connecticut Supreme Court interpreted Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52, 59 (1985), as dictating that, to show prejudice stemming from ineffective assistance leading to a guilty plea, a petitioner needed to show that, but for his attorney’s substandard representation, he would have insisted on going to trial “and that the evidence that had been undiscovered or the defenses he claims should have been introduced were likely to have been successful at trial.”  The petitioner appealed, and the Appellate Court (144 Conn. App. 461) reversed and remanded for further proceedings, finding that the habeas court did not apply the correct prejudice standard.  The Appellate Court concluded that, to show prejudice under Hill v. Lockhart, a petitioner need only show a reasonable probability that, but for counsel’s errors, he would not have pleaded guilty and would have insisted on going to trial.  The court noted that, while an analysis of the strength of the state’s case and the viability of unadvanced defense strategies informs a Hill analysis, it is not by itself determinative.  The Supreme Court granted the commissioner of correction certification to appeal and will decide whether the Appellate Court properly determined that the habeas court applied the wrong legal standard in assessing the petitioner’s claims.  The commissioner claims that, because the habeas court and the Appellate Court were bound by the Copas decision, the Appellate Court improperly determined that the habeas court applied the wrong prejudice standard.  The commissioner also urges that the Supreme Court reexamine and clarify its holding in Copas