Tag Archives: connecticut

¡Ay Dios Mio!


Would you believe it? Two reversals in two weeks! Two! The Appellate Court yesterday reversed a conviction on the grounds that a Motion to Suppress should have been granted on an issue, apparently, of first impression in Connecticut.

We conclude that the defendant was unlawfully detained, that his consent to search the vehicle was tainted by that illegal detention and that the state failed to purge the taint of the illegal detention.

The defendant was stopped for illegal lane changes. After obtaining his license and determining that there were no outstanding warrants for him, the cop wrote him a ticket and then started inquiring about any other illegal activity. The Court was asked to determine whether the extension of the stop was supported by any reasonable suspicion supported by articulable facts that a crime has been or is being committed.

The Court held that the extension of the stop was not supported by “R & AS” and that his subsequent consent to search the car was not voluntary.

Reversed! (Of course, as is par for the course, here’s the dissent.)

Here’s some context for the title:

Enforcing the right to effective assistance of counsel

The big news of the weekend thus far, for me at least, has been the announcement by the NYCLU that it is filing suit in New York, alleging Constitutional violations by the State for its failure to provide adequate resources to public defenders.

From the press release:

“Every day, in courtrooms throughout the state, New Yorkers are denied justice simply because they are poor. Justice should not depend on your ZIP code or the size of your wallet,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU. “We filed this lawsuit today as a last resort, in response to the constitutional deficiencies identified by a commission appointed by Chief Judge Kaye to evaluate our public defense system, and the failure of lawmakers to compel the state to repair what is clearly a broken and unjust system.”

The class action lawsuit charges that a lack of adequate funding, oversight and statewide standards is denying New Yorkers accused of crimes their lawful right to competent, qualified and timely representation at all stages of the justice process, a violation of the U.S. Constitution, the state constitution and the laws of New York.

It is extremely annoying that it has to come to this. New York could have, at the very least, learned from Connecticut. It was a CCLU and ACLU lawsuit in Connecticut – Rivera v. Rowland – that forced the legislature to increase funding by millions and double the number of positions in the system. The settlement of that lawsuit led to a wholesale revamping of the public defender’s system in CT, with better pay, more positions, more training, lower caseloads. This was in 1999. Now, almost 8 years later, New York is facing the same crisis.

It is great, on the other hand, because this will undoubtedly force New York to take action. New York is one of only 6 states remaining that have no statewide responsibility or oversight mechanism for public defense and remains among a minority of states, including Alabama and Mississippi, that have failed to join the movement toward full state funding.

Make no mistake: this is not a panacea. Caseloads will still be high, public defenders will still be understaffed, berated and maligned. However, they will be in a better position to fight those charges and the charges brought by the State against indigent defendants.

For more, read the ABA’s report entitled “Gideon’s Broken Promise” and The Spangenberg Group‘s report to NY’s Indigent Defense Commission.

Monday morning jumpstart


Veteran’s Day edition!

  • Governor Rell is opposed to the $260million proposal to build new prisons, which was covered here.
  • This NYT piece considers whether suspension of parole is an Ex-Post Facto violation. Norm covers the CT angle, while Scott has the New York perspective.
  • Indignant Indigent has a great post on why it is ineffective not to raise claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. He goes through a pretty compelling list of reasons. As if it should even be a question.
  • What do you carry during trial? Bennett has a long list.
  • Prof. Berman points to a five part report in the Dallas Morning News about Texas being soft on murderers (imagine that!).
  • Maggie takes a break from Nichols posting and wonders about the propriety of levity in the courtroom.
  • Miss Tyrios tells us of unusual sentencing in (what the heck is Mass.’s nickname?) the Bay state (who knew!) where a judge imposed banishment.
  • Legal Blog Watch notes the support in the blawgosphere for the lawyers in Pakistan, but asks if we would represent Musharraf.
  • Here‘s an interesting piece in the Village Voice by a public defender whose client chose to fight against NYPD’s crackdown on “trespassing”.
  • NYCLU will file a “landmark lawsuit” today, alleging failings in indigent defense.
  • Widow of Michael Richard (executed by Texas due to Judge Keller’s questionable actions) filed suit in federal court.

That should do it for now! As usual, leave a link in the comments if there’s something interesting you want to share.

Image license info here

Three strikes law? Not in Connecticut!

Say two thirds of those polled in this latest Quinnipiac University poll. There you go legislators.

Only 35 percent of voters support a so-called “third strike” law where a person convicted of three violent felonies automatically is sentenced to life in prison, while 63 percent say sentences should be decided on a case-by-case basis.

Oh thank God.

There are some other interesting results in this poll. For example, only 27 percent say they feel less safe at home since Cheshire. On prison overcrowding:

48 percent of voters say build more prisons, while 39 percent say release inmates earlier. But only 47 percent of voters want to pay higher taxes for new prisons, while 50 percent are opposed.

Meanwhile, by a 62 – 32 percent margin, Connecticut voters are willing to pay higher taxes for more community supervision of offenders.

Interestingly, the Cheshire murders have not sparked a huge increase in support for the death penalty. Connecticut is in favor of the death penalty by a margin of 63-27, which is a slight increase from 60%, which was prior to Cheshire. However, when given the alternative of life in prison without parole, the state splits 47-44 in favor of the death penalty.

Skakel files federal habeas

After being denied a new trial in State court, Michael Skakel is now going straight to federal court. His attorneys filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus (not petition for new trial as the Courant first reported), raising essentially the same failed claims from his direct appeal to the Connecticut Supreme Court.

I’m not sure if this means that he is forgoing an appeal from the denial of petition for new trial, but it does almost certainly mean that no IAC claim will be raised in federal court. That will surely come in state court, but further down the line.

Again I am a little surprised as to why they chose to go this route, as with the petition for new trial. Perhaps his one year was almost up.

Either way, I think Skakel’s best bet is the IAC claim against “Mickey” Sherman.

A primer on severance and uncharged misconduct

Yesterday, the CT Supreme Court issued State v. Randolph [pdf], reversing a murder conviction. The Court agreed with the defendant that he should not have been tried together for two separate offenses. Here is the standard for severance in Connecticut:

The defendant bears a heavy burden of showing that the denial of severance resulted in substantial injustice, and that any resulting prejudice was beyond the curative power of the court’s instructions. . . .

Consequently, we have identified several factors that a trial court should consider in deciding whether a severance may be necessary to avoid undue prejudice resulting from consolidation of multiple charges for trial. These factors include: (1) whether the charges involve discrete, easily distinguishable factual scenarios; (2) whether the crimes were of a violent nature or concerned brutal or shocking conduct on the defendant’s part; and (3) the duration and complexity of the trial. . . . If any or all of these factors are present, a reviewing court must decide whether the trial court’s jury instructions cured any prejudice that might have occurred.’’

Monday Morning Jumpstart


It’s Monday. Have you set your clocks back one hour?

  • The topic du jour is snitching, so let’s start off with the Windypundit’s exploration of the snitching debate from an economics perspective.
  • Speaking of economics, Grits has this absolutely terrific post on why economic theory doesn’t apply to plea bargaining.
  • Corrections Sentencing follows up on Grits’ post and highlights the fundamental flaws in the criminal justice system that have brought us to where we are.
  • Stephen Gustitis points to an interesting, though not groundbreaking, study that concludes that the cockier you are, the greater your credibility falls.
  • Malum decries the lack of funding for indigent defense.
  • Prof. Birmingham will be back in the spring, albeit one class lighter: Feminist Legal Theory.
  • NACDL’s website has this terrific guide (which is from an old issue, but still very useful) which provides a blueprint for trying Eyewitness ID cases.
  • Apparently, CT is facing a “growing problem” with fake lawyers. [H/T: LBW]
  • CT gets a glimpse of life in Texas.

Enjoy the extra hour!