Browne v. Warden
To prevail on an ineffective assistance of counsel claim a petitioner must prove a reasonable probability exists that, but for counsel's ineffective assistance, the result would have been different. A jury reasonably could have found the following facts: The petitioner and an accomplice entered an unoccupied residence in Middletown and took cash, jewelry and electronics. The homeowner returned and called the police, when she observed an unfamiliar motor vehicle in her driveway. An officer partially blocked the driveway and exited his cruiser to investigate. The petitioner and his accomplice returned to their motor vehicle and sped away, with the police in pursuit. On Route 9, the petitioner swerved toward Sergeant George Dingwall's motor vehicle. Dingwall crashed into a wooded area and died. The petitioner also crashed into Officer Scott Wisner's motor vehicle and rear-ended Officer John Labbadia's cruiser. A state trooper successfully used stop sticks. Police found the homeowner's belongings in the petitioner's motor vehicle. A jury convicted the petitioner of misconduct with a motor vehicle, reckless driving, engaging an officer in pursuit, criminal mischief and larceny. Judge Patrick Clifford sentenced the petitioner to 32 years. The petitioner filed a writ of habeas corpus, alleging that his trial attorney, Norm Pattis, provided ineffective assistance, because he did not call an expert to testify about what caused Sergeant Dingwall to lose control of his cruiser. The court found that Pattis elicited evidence that the petitioner was not engaged in erratic, evasive or aggressive maneuvers when Dingwall crashed, that the petitioner's motor vehicle did not make contact with Dingwall's cruiser and that Dingwall's tire was overinflated. A Goodyear representative conceded he could not rule out mismatched tires as a possible cause. Nearly every witness for the state admitted to changes in testimony, to favor the state's point of view. Pattis argued that the police tactics were reckless and constituted a superseding and intervening cause. "Attorney Pattis," wrote the court "did a commendable job" and represented the petitioner with "competence and vigor." The petitioner failed to prove ineffective assistance or prejudice, and the court denied the petition for a writ of habeas corpus.