Varchetta v. Commissioner of Correction
Because the petitioner must prove both deficient performance and prejudice to establish his ineffective assistance of counsel claim under the 1984 U.S. Supreme Court case of Strickland v. Washington, even if the habeas court used an improper standard to determine prejudice, the court’s unchallenged findings that he failed to prove deficient performance would stand and no practical relief could be afforded to him. Anthony Varchetta pleaded guilty under the Alford doctrine to counts of sexual assault in the first degree and received an agreed upon sentence of 12 years’ incarceration with 13 years’ special parole. The state entered a nolle prosequi to a related kidnapping change and did not charge Varchetta as a persistent dangerous sexual offender which carried the possibility of a life sentence. The habeas court denied his petition for a writ of habeas corpus, claiming that his attorney failed to investigate his case or to adequately advise him. The judgment was affirmed on appeal. Varchetta filed a third amended petition for a writ of habeas corpus, alleging ineffective assistance of his prior habeas counsel and that he was constructively denied effective assistance of counsel during critical pretrial stages pursuant to the 1984 U.S. Supreme Court case of U.S. v. Cronic. The habeas court denied the petition, finding no deficient performance by the petitioner’s trial or habeas counsel and no prejudice even if there was deficient performance. Certification to appeal was denied. The petitioner appealed, challenging the standard the habeas court applied to determine whether he was afforded the effective assistance of both trial and habeas counsel. The Appellate Court dismissed the appeal. The petitioner failed to challenge the habeas court’s findings that the petitioner did not prove any deficient performance of his trial and habeas counsel. Thus, even if he prevailed on his claim that the habeas court used an improper standard to determine prejudice, the unchallenged findings that he failed to prove deficient performance would stand. No practical relief could be afforded him. Under Strickland, the petitioner must prove both deficient performance and prejudice to establish his ineffective assistance of counsel claim.