Case of the Week

Defendant Claims Lawyer Distracted By His Own Criminal Case

, The Connecticut Law Tribune


Rodriguez told the judge his lawyer only was familiar with the basic facts of his case. O'Keefe ultimately told Rodriguez his protest was noted but that the trial would proceed.

Rodriguez was convicted and sentenced to 15 years behind bars.

He appealed, arguing that the trial judge should have held a hearing to determine if Cannatelli was providing adequate representation. Rodriguez maintains that Cannatelli was distracted by his own case and wasn't properly prepared for Rodriguez's trial.

The Appellate Court upheld Rodriguez's conviction and told him to pursue his ineffective assistance of counsel claim as a habeas case.

After Rodriguez got out of prison, he was again arrested for violating the terms of his probation. That led to him being sentenced in 2003 to 10 more years in prison. In 2005, Rodriguez decided to again challenge Cannatelli's representation in his original criminal case.

In 2009, Superior Court Judge John Nazzaro denied Rodriguez's habeas petition. Cannatelli himself testified at the hearing.

"There has been no showing that either an actual conflict of interest existed here or that there was a lapse in representation by Mr. Cannatelli," wrote Nazzaro.

Rodriguez then appealed the habeas ruling to the Appellate Court. Once again, in 2011, the Appellate Court upheld Rodriguez's conviction.

In his latest appeal, Rodriguez, now represented by attorney April Brodeur of Stonington, cites the Connecticut 1991 Supreme Court decision in Phillips v. Warden. In that case, a defendant's lawyer, Bernard Avcollie, was appealing his own murder conviction at the same time he was representing the man in his criminal trial.

The state Supreme Court determined that Avcollie's representation created a constitutionally impermissible risk that the jury would identify the conduct of defense counsel with the conduct of the defendant and such conduct would reflect poorly on the defendant.

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