Edwards v. Commissioner of Correction
The fact that a witness' statement was given to police under an alias did not necessarily make its contents false, nor did it automatically negate the prosecutor's good faith basis for asking impeaching questions using the statement. Following a jury trial, Michael Edwards was convicted of murder for the shooting death of George Wright. After the shooting, Edwards went to a nearby bar and spoke with Scott Davis. Davis signed a statement for police about the conversation using an alias. At trial, Edwards testified that the gun went off accidentally while he was attempting to disarm Wright. The state's attorney, Kevin Murphy, used Davis' statement in cross-examining Edwards to impeach his credibility. On appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed Edwards' conviction. Edwards' first habeas petition was denied and that judgment was affirmed on appeal. Edwards then brought this second petition for a writ of habeas corpus alleging that his first habeas counsel, Elizabeth Brooks, rendered ineffective assistance, relevantly, by failing to claim that trial counsel was ineffective in not objecting on the basis of prosecutorial impropriety to the cross-examination of the petitioner. The petitioner argued that the prosecutor, Kevin Murphy, asked questions of him without a good faith basis because Davis' statement, given under an alias, was inherently unreliable. The second habeas court denied the petition finding that Brooks did not perform deficiently by failing to raise the meritless prosecutorial impropriety claim and that the petitioner was not thereby prejudiced. Edwards, granted certification, appealed. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment. The petitioner failed to show that Murphy committed prosecutorial impropriety by asking questions to impeach the petitioner's credibility based on Davis' statement. The mere fact that Davis' statement was given under an alias did not necessarily make its contents false, or automatically negate Murphy's good faith basis for asking impeaching questions. Moreover, other evidence corroborated details of Davis' statement, which supported the habeas court's conclusion that Murphy did not lack a good faith basis to use the statement to impeach the petitioner's credibility. Thus, trial counsel did not render ineffective assistance by failing to object on this basis and prior habeas counsel did not render ineffective assistance by declining to raise the claim.