Martin v. Commissioner of Correction
If a habeas court determines that the petitioner failed to satisfy the performance prong of the standard established in the 1984 U.S. Supreme Court case of Strickland v. Washington, that determination is dispositive of the petitioner's habeas claims, and it is unnecessary for the court to reach the prejudice prong. Andre Martin was convicted of several crimes including possession of four ounces or more of a cannabis-type substance and attempt to possess one kilogram or more of marijuana with intent to sell by a person who is not drug-dependent. His conviction was affirmed and reversed in part and the matter remanded with direction to combine the attempt conviction with the possession conviction and to vacate the sentence for the possession conviction. He filed a second amended petition for writ of habeas corpus alleging that his trial counsel, Richard Lafferty, had rendered ineffective assistance with regard to the petitioner's decision to testify on his own behalf. The habeas court denied the habeas petition but granted Martin's petition for certification to appeal. Martin appealed claiming that the court improperly determined that his trial counsel rendered effective assistance with regard to his exercising his right to testify. The Appellate Court disagreed and affirmed the judgment. The habeas court properly determined that Lafferty's performance fell within the range of reasonable professional assistance. There was no merit to the petitioner's assertion that the court failed in its duty to scrutinize Lafferty's performance. The habeas court reviewed the testimony of the petitioner and Lafferty regarding how the petitioner reached his decision to testify and the nature of Lafferty's advice. The court noted the difference in their recollections and found Lafferty's testimony to be more credible than the petitioner's testimony. The Appellate Court would not second-guess that credibility determination on appeal. Lafferty warned Martin that, if he testified, he could be questioned about anything that went to his veracity as a witness, and that is exactly what transpired. No credible evidence was presented from which the habeas court reasonably could have found that Lafferty's advice was so deficient as to have left the petitioner to make a wholly uninformed decision to testify.