STATE v. ERNEST FRANCIS, SC 19378

Judicial District of Hartford

 

†††† †Criminal; Whether Trial Court Improperly Failed to Follow Procedure Set Forth in Anders v. California in Denying Defendantís Request for Appointed Counsel in Connection with a Motion to Correct an Illegal Sentence.† The defendant was convicted of murder and sentenced to fifty years of incarceration.† He subsequently filed a motion to correct his sentence as a self-represented party.† At the beginning of the hearing on the motion to correct, the defendant requested that an attorney be appointed to represent him.† A public defender who was present at the hearing, R. Bruce Lorenzen, stated that the motion to correct did not have sufficient merit to justify the appointment of a public defender.† Based upon Lorenzenís representation, the trial court denied the defendantís request for appointed counsel.† Thereafter, the court denied the motion to correct, and the defendant appealed, arguing that the court improperly denied his request for appointed counsel based upon Lorenzenís conclusory statement that his claims lacked merit.† The Appellate Court (148 Conn. App. 565) agreed, noting first that, pursuant to General Statutes ß 51-296 (a), an indigent defendant has a statutory right to appointed counsel in any criminal action, including postconviction motions to correct.† The court pointed out, however, that this right is not unlimited in that it does not afford a defendant the right to appointed counsel for the prosecution of frivolous claims.† It then determined that when a public defender concludes that a motion to correct is meritless, the trial court must follow Anders v. California, 386 U.S. 738 (1967), which held that: (1) an indigent defendant has the right to personal representation by appointed counsel; (2) an appointed attorney who seeks to withdraw from the case on the ground of frivolousness must file a brief listing all possible grounds supporting the defendantís claims; and (3) the trial court must independently determine whether the defendantís claims have any merit.† The Appellate Court stated that, although Anders focused only upon the appointed attorneyís duty to prosecute a first appeal from a criminal conviction, the procedure set forth in that case is equally applicable to a motion to correct.† It reasoned that, in State v. Casiano, 282 Conn. 614 (2007), the Supreme Court expressly equated the importance of a motion to correct with that of a criminal appeal when it extended the right of appointed counsel to a defendant who files a motion to correct.† The court also emphasized that Connecticut case law indicates that the Anders procedure is applicable in all proceedings in which the statutory right to counsel has been extended.† The Appellate Court then held that, here, the trial court did not satisfy any of the Anders requirements in that it failed to appoint Lorenzen to represent the defendantís interests, refused to order Lorenzen to explain his conclusion that the defendantís motion was meritless, and failed to make its own independent determination as to whether the defendantís claims were frivolous.† Accordingly, the Appellate Court reversed the trial courtís judgment.† In this appeal, the Supreme Court will decide whether the Appellate Court properly determined that the trial court should have applied the Anders procedure.

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