Francis v. Commissioner of Correction
A judge's involvement in more than one stage of a criminal case does not per se create an appearance of partiality requiring disqualification. Ernest Francis, while incarcerated, was attacked by other inmates and stabbed in the leg. After Francis and the victim, the individual Francis believed stabbed him, were released, four witnesses watched Francis exit a vehicle, confront a young man walking down the street holding an ice pop, and stab him to death as the victim tried to retreat. Following a jury trial, Francis was convicted of murder. He filed a habeas corpus petition, representing himself with standby counsel, alleging that his trial counsel, Kenneth Simon, provided ineffective assistance. The habeas court denied the petition and denied certification to appeal. Francis appealed alleging, inter alia, that Simon provided ineffective assistance in failing to investigate and to present a defense of extreme emotional disturbance and in failing to move to disqualify the presiding judge. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment. The evidence in the record indicated that the petitioner never relayed to Simon that he felt emotionally disturbed; instead, he provided varying versions of events, ultimately claiming he stabbed the victim by mistake. He testified before the jury to stabbing the victim unintentionally after being blinded by flying juice from the ice pop. The record also demonstrated that the petitioner never expressed symptoms of trauma or emotional disturbance from the jailhouse incident until asserting his ineffective assistance claims. The habeas court found no credible evidence that a timely psychiatric evaluation would have revealed purported symptoms. Furthermore, Simon determined that the jailhouse incident would have provided "very hard evidence of a motive," harmful to the case. Given the information Simon received from the petitioner, and the deference afforded to counsel's strategic decisions, it could not be concluded that Simons' failure to investigate or present the defense was deficient performance. Simon also did not provide ineffective assistance for failing to move to disqualify Judge Miano, who signed the petitioner's arrest warrant, from presiding at the probable cause hearing and criminal trial. C.G.S. §51-183h did not preclude Judge Miano from presiding over the probable cause hearing. Canon 3(c) of the Code of Judicial Conduct (2010) did not require his disqualification from trial, as claimed. No ground existed requiring the judge's disqualification.