Ramirez v. Warden
In a sexual assault case, a court can instruct the jury that a witness' testimony is available only to corroborate the victim's testimony, as opposed to for substantive purposes. In 1999, the victim was dating Johnny Ramirez, the petitioner's brother. The victim went to a party at the Ramirez residence, consumed several drinks and became ill. The petitioner allegedly offered to escort the victim to the ladies' facility. As the victim vomited, the petitioner allegedly said that she looked "sexy" and fondled her breasts. The victim begged the petitioner to stop and vomited. The petitioner allegedly penetrated the victim's vagina with his penis. The victim asked the petitioner to stop. Two days afterward, the victim called the police. The state charged the petitioner with first-degree sexual assault. A jury convicted the petitioner. He appealed and won a new trial before Judge Robert Callahan. A second jury convicted the petitioner. The petitioner filed a writ of habeas corpus, alleging that he received ineffective assistance of counsel, because trial counsel, Robert Gulash, failed to request an instruction about constancy of accusation, with respect to the testimony of the victim's mother. The habeas court found that the petitioner's counsel filed a motion to exclude the testimony of the victim's mother. The petitioner's counsel testified that once he objected to the evidence and that objection was overruled, it was not part of his strategy to draw further attention to the evidence. The habeas court found that this constituted a reasonable strategic decision by the petitioner's experienced attorney, who is a past president of the Connecticut Criminal Defense Lawyers Association. Even if the petitioner had proved that trial counsel's performance was deficient, the petitioner failed to prove prejudice. The state possessed a strong case that included the petitioner's DNA on the victim's clothes, the victim's testimony and the hospital examination. The habeas court was not persuaded that the result would have been different, if the trial court had provided a constancy-of-accusation instruction, or even if the victim's mother had not been permitted to testify. The court denied the petition for a writ of habeas corpus.