Trotter v. Commissioner of Correction
As a reviewing court, the Appellate Court cannot second guess the habeas court's credibility determinations. Following a jury trial, Roy Trotter was convicted of attempt to commit murder, assault in the first degree and carrying a pistol without permit. The court found Trotter guilty of violating C.G.S. §53-202k, a sentence enhancement statute. Trotter was sentenced to a total effective term of 30 years imprisonment. The conviction was upheld on appeal. A prior habeas trial ended in a mistrial. Trotter filed this amended petition for a writ of habeas corpus alleging ineffective assistance of trial counsel. The habeas court denied the petition and denied certification to appeal. Trotter appealed claiming that the habeas court abused its discretion in denying his petition for certification to appeal and erred in rejecting his claim that his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to provide correct, adequate and meaningful advice regarding the state's plea offer. Specifically, the petitioner claimed that the court erred in concluding that the petitioner did not sustain his burden of demonstrating that his trial counsel rendered deficient performance by failing to advise the petitioner that if he rejected the state's plea offer, the state would amend the information to increase his maximum sentence exposure by adding a charge and applying a sentence enhancement. He argued that he suffered prejudice from his counsel's deficient performance because, but for the inadequate advice regarding his maximum sentence exposure, he would have accepted the state's plea offer. The Appellate Court dismissed the appeal. The habeas court found that the petitioner's testimony, including his testimony that his trial counsel had not informed him about the additional sentencing exposure, was not credible. This finding left the petitioner without any record evidence to support his claim that his trial counsel provided inadequate advice regarding his maximum exposure at sentencing. As a reviewing court, the Appellate Court could not second guess the credibility determination. The conclusion that the habeas court did not err in finding that the petitioner failed to sustain his burden of demonstrating that his counsel rendered deficient performance was dispositive of the ineffective assistance of counsel claim.