Britton v. Commissioner of Correction
Testimony that the petitioner was unwilling to accept a plea because he wanted a trial, did not support a determination that absent his attorneys' alleged ineffective advice regarding a plea offer, there is a reasonable probability that he would have accepted the offer. Following a jury trial, Abin Britton was convicted of crimes for the beating death of James Connor, including felony murder, kidnapping and robbery. He was sentenced to a total effective term of 85 years incarceration. His conviction was affirmed on appeal. Britton filed this petition for a writ of habeas corpus, alleging that his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance, including by failing to adequately advise him regarding a plea offer. The habeas court denied the habeas petition and denied Britton's petition for certification to appeal. The Appellate Court dismissed Britton's appeal. The panel agreed with the habeas court's finding that the petitioner did not suffer prejudice from his attorneys' performance. While represented by counsel different from the attorneys who tried his case, Britton rejected an offer of 55 years with the opportunity to argue for less in exchange for pleading guilty to felony murder. The offer remained open. At trial, Britton was represented by Kevin Barrs and M. Fred DeCaprio. Barrs testified that, before trial, he discussed the plea offer with Britton accompanied by Britton's mother, who encouraged Britton to accept it. Barrs did not affirmatively recommend the sentence given its length but explained its relative costs and benefits and left the decision to the petitioner. Because the petitioner presented no evidence that he would have accepted the offer, but, testified that he affirmatively wanted to go to trial, he suffered no prejudice from his attorneys' advice regarding the offer. Britton was not prejudiced by his attorneys' failure to offer his testimony at a hearing to suppress his statements. Britton's testimony did not establish any credible new or additional factual bases for a court to find he was in custody while questioned. Counsel was not ineffective for failing to object to the court's mentioning his prior felony conviction during preliminary jury instructions. Counsel discussed the instructions in chambers, voiced an objection and persuaded the court to favorably revise its intended instructions. The panel declined to fault counsel for not predicting the law's later development.