Correia v. Commissioner of Correction
Although it often would be better practice for someone other than trial counsel to represent a petitioner in a subsequent habeas action, no authority prohibits trial counsel from also assuming the role of habeas counsel. Following a jury trial, Steven Correia was convicted, in connection with the carjacking of two women at gunpoint in a parking lot at night, on first degree counts of sexual assault, kidnapping and robbery with a firearm. He forced one woman into the trunk and robbed and sexually assaulted the other. Five years later, the sexual assault victim identified Correia from a photographic array and at trial. His conviction was affirmed on appeal. He unsuccessfully petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus in state and federal district court. Both judgments were affirmed on appeal. He filed this habeas action amended to allege ineffective assistance by attorney Francis Mandanici, who acted as trial, appellate, habeas and appellate habeas counsel. The habeas court denied the petition. Correia appealed claiming, first, that the habeas court improperly rejected his claim that Mandanici provided ineffective assistance by failing to adequately challenge the victim's in- court identification of him. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment. None of the findings supporting the petition's denial were clearly erroneous and no error was found in the court's legal conclusions. The habeas court found that although Mandanici appeared to have misunderstood the procedure for an in-court identification by lineup, he "zealously advocated for the petitioner, trying to have him absent from the courtroom or identified by lineup." Even assuming deficient performance, the habeas court found that the ineffective assistance claim failed because Correia did not produce evidence that the victim would not have identified him in the lineup or that the outcome of trial would have been different. The habeas court properly rejected Correia's claim that Mandanici provided ineffective assistance by acting as previous habeas counsel or by failing to recuse himself for a conflict of interest. The habeas court noted that although it often would be better practice for someone other than trial counsel to represent a petitioner in a subsequent habeas action, no authority prohibits counsel from also assuming the role of habeas counsel. The petitioner failed to demonstrate that Mandanici actively represented conflicting interests or had an actual conflict affecting his performance.