Spyke v. Commissioner of Correction
Because the trial court did not err in instructing the jury, appellate counsel's decision not to raise the issue of instructional error on appeal did not rise to the level of ineffective assistance of counsel. Following a jury trial, Michael Spyke was convicted of murder and other crimes. His conviction was affirmed on direct appeal. He filed an amended petition for a writ of habeas corpus alleging that the trial court improperly read the entire statutory definition of intent from C.G.S. §53a-3 to the jury and that his appellate counsel failed to raise the issue on direct appeal. The respondent commissioner of correction moved for summary judgment, arguing that the claims in the amended petition were meritless as a matter of law and that the petitioner could not, therefore, establish that his appellate counsel's performance was deficient in failing to raise the claim on direct appeal. The habeas court granted the motion and rendered a judgment of dismissal. Spyke was denied certification to appeal. After his right to appeal was restored, Spyke appealed claiming that the habeas court abused its discretion in denying certification to appeal and granting the summary judgment motion. The Appellate Court dismissed the appeal. The defendant argued that the "overall tenor of the trial court's charge" on intent was "in generic terms improper and confusing [to] the jury." The challenged section describing intent as when the "conscious objective is to cause such result or to engage in such conduct" applied to both accessory to murder and weapons charges against the defendant. The state presented evidence that the petitioner and others shot the victim, and it was the state's burden to prove not only the specific intent to murder but also the general intent to engage in conduct leading to the murder, namely, firing of the weapon. Thus, it would have been inappropriate for the court not to instruct the jury on general intent and specific intent. Because the court did not err in instructing the jury as it did, appellate counsel's decision not to raise the issue on direct appeal did not rise to the level of ineffective assistance of counsel.