Griffin v. Commissioner of Correction
As expressed in the 2006 Appellate Court case of Servello v. Commissioner of Correction, "there is a strong presumption that the trial strategy employed by a criminal defendant's counsel is reasonable and is a result of the exercise of professional judgment…" Following a jury trial, Vincent Griffin was convicted of sexual assault in the first degree. His conviction was affirmed on direct appeal. He filed an amended petition for a writ of habeas corpus alleging ineffective assistance of trial counsel. The habeas court denied the petition but granted certification to appeal. Griffin appealed claiming that the habeas court improperly rejected his claims of ineffective assistance because his trial counsel, Leonard Caine, rendered ineffective assistance in several ways. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment. Griffin claimed that Caine improperly failed to object to hearsay testimony provided by Officer Rebecca Wisnie and Detective Anthony Rickevicius regarding what the victim told them regarding the sexual assault and improperly introduced the victim's written statement to police into evidence. Neither party disputed that the officers' testimony constituted inadmissible hearsay. Caine explained at the habeas trial that his trial strategy was to highlight the inconsistencies between the victim's testimony and her statements to police, to undermine her credibility and to raise reasonable doubt as to Griffin's guilt. The habeas court found numerous inconsistencies between the victim's testimony and her statements to police. The Appellate Court agreed with the habeas court that Caine did not render ineffective assistance. Griffin could not overcome the strong presumption that the trial strategy was reasonable. Caine's decision not to object to the officers' testimony allowed the jury to hear the inconsistencies between the victim's testimony in court and her prior statements to the officers, in furtherance of Caine's focus on undermining the victim's credibility and raising reasonable doubt regarding Griffin's guilt. Similarly, admitting the victim's written statement into evidence also highlighted the differences between her trial testimony and prior recounting of the incident to police. Griffin's claim that Caine rendered ineffective assistance by failing to request a jury instruction on consent pursuant to the 1989 Connecticut Supreme Court case of State v. Smith also was rejected. The instruction for ambiguous consent circumstances was not warranted when Griffin claimed that the victim plainly had consented.