Defendant Claims Lawyer Distracted By His Own Criminal Case
In its decision, the Appellate Court distinguished Rodriguez's case from the Phillips case. The judges ruled that while Avcollie was ultimately convicted of strangling his wife to death, Cannatelli was acquitted of criminal charges and his case drew minimal publicity.
Brodeur doesn't think the ultimate outcome in Cannatelli's case matters.
"The fact that Cannatelli was ultimately acquitted of the crimes of which he was accused is of no consequence to the conflict of interest because he stood before a jury with [Rodriguez] only three weeks later," wrote Brodeur. "This jury was culled from a pool in the judicial district where Cannatelli was tried and his case received notable media coverage. Cannatelli placed himself and [Rodriguez] in a 'no-win' situation … and risked juror bias."
Brodeur continued: "An attorney charged with a crime garnering media attention who represents a defendant at the same time his case is ongoing (or very recently resolved) in the same judicial district must take steps to ensure representation is conflict-free. Those steps were not taken in this case. Yet, the habeas court found no error and the Appellate Court upheld this decision. The Appellate Court erred in upholding the habeas court."
While Meriden has its own courthouse, its one of 13 towns in the New Haven Judicial District.
Senior Assistant State's Attorney Timothy Sugrue said he does not believe a conflict exists and agrees with the habeas and Appellate Court's rulings.
"There is no question that the bribery/tampering charges brought against Cannatelli were serious, integrity-based crimes and that, had Cannatelli been convicted of such charges, a knowing juror's view of counsel and, by extension, his client might become corrupted," wrote Sugrue. "An unproven allegation that counsel bribed a witness in an unrelated civil matter in no way compares with a murder conviction that is based on strangling one's wife to death and leaving her corpse in a swimming pool."
Surgure continued: "The conduct differs so significantly that there was little or no risk that knowledge of Cannatelli's situation would have caused a potential juror to revile Cannatelli and transfer this negative feeling to the petitioner." •