Skakel v. Warden
An individual who files a petition for a new trial is not required to raise all potential habeas claims. In 2002, the petitioner, Michael Skakel, was convicted of the 1975 murder of Martha Moxley. Skakel's conviction was affirmed on direct appeal. Skakel's 2005 petition for a new trial, pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes §52-270, was denied in 2007, and the denial was affirmed on direct appeal. In 2010, Skakel filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, alleging that his trial attorney, Michael Sherman, provided ineffective assistance and had a conflict of interest. The respondent warden filed motions to dismiss and for summary judgment on the grounds of procedural default, because Skakel failed to raise these claims in his motion for a new trial. The habeas court did not find any Connecticut appellate court decisions on point. The habeas court was not persuaded that Skakel was required to raise all potential habeas claims he could assert, when he filed the 2005 petition for a new trial. "Merely because one has an option to raise an issue either earlier or later, possibly using different procedural devices," wrote the habeas court, "does not necessarily mean that the litigant cannot take advantage of both procedures." Connecticut permits inmates to file successive habeas petitions that raise different claims, even if the different claims could have been raised earlier. Practice Book §23-29(3) permits the dismissal of a subsequent habeas petition, if "the petition presents the same ground as a prior petition previously denied and fails to state new facts or to proffer new evidence." Collateral estoppel prohibits the relitigation of an issue, if that issue was actually litigated and necessarily decided in a prior action. The habeas court granted the motion to dismiss or for summary judgment on the claim of wrongful transfer to the adult docket, because that issue was already decided on direct appeal, when the Connecticut Supreme Court held that transfer was correct. Collateral estoppel also barred Skakel's claims about alleged prosecutorial misconduct during closing argument, because on direct appeal the Connecticut Supreme Court considered and rejected nearly identical allegations.