LaSalle v. Murphy
RULING re 1 Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus filed by Marcelino LaSalle, Jr. Signed by Judge Janet Bond Arterton on 7/8/14.(Torday, B.)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
MARCELINO LaSALLE, JR.,
CASE NO. 3:13-cv-1703 (JBA)
RULING RE: PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS
The petitioner, Marcelino LaSalle, Jr., currently
incarcerated at the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution
in Suffield, Connecticut, brings this action pro se for a writ
of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (2000).
challenges his conviction for murder.
For the reasons that
follow, the petition is denied.
On June 22, 2010, the petitioner was living in a boarding
house in Groton, Connecticut.
In the late afternoon or early
evening, the petitioner approached a male tenant and apologized
for making noise a few nights earlier.
The petitioner told the
male tenant that the manager, the victim, intended to evict him.
The petitioner said that he needed to get a receipt from the
manager and that the petitioner planned to “get everyone” who
was complaining about him.
State v. LaSalle, 95 Conn. App. 263,
265, 897 A.2d 101, 104 (2006).
At approximately 6:00 p.m., the petitioner approached a
He yelled at her that he was being evicted
because she had complained about a fight he was involved in
outside of the boarding house.
The petitioner told the female
tenant that he was searching for whoever had complained about
him and threatened to kill her if she returned to the boarding
house that night.
The female tenant left the boarding house
immediately after hearing these threats.
See id. at 265-66, 897
A.2d at 104.
Several hours after his encounters with the other tenants,
the petitioner went to the manager’s room on the first floor of
the boarding house.
He cut and stabbed the manager four times
with a sharp knife on different parts of his body.
petitioner cut the manager on the back of his shoulder and his
cheek and stabbed him in the right side of his neck and the
right side of his chest.
The chest wound cut the manager’s
second rib, the top part of his lung and his aorta, causing
blood to collect in the manager’s thoracic cavity around his
lungs and heart.
The manager died shortly after this wound was
See id. at 266, 897 A.2d at 104.
After he killed the manager, the petitioner left the
boarding house and walked toward a nearby motel.
the owner of the motel in the parking lot.
The motel owner
observed that the petitioner’s clothes were covered with blood
and asked him to leave the motel property.
When the petitioner
did not leave, the motel owner threatened to spray the
petitioner in the eyes with a bottle of commercial strength
cleaning fluid he was holding.
The petitioner left the motel
and walked back toward the boarding house.
called the police.
The motel owner
See id. at 266-67, 897 A.2d at 105.
During the hour immediately following the manager’s death,
the petitioner tried to conceal his involvement in the crime.
He washed the knife and hid it in a paper bag in his room.
placed the shorts and socks he had been wearing, which were
covered with the manager’s blood, in a plastic bag and hid the
bag in the oven which was located in a common area of the
The petitioner also discarded his sweatshirt
and a towel, also covered with the manager’s blood, on
properties surrounding the boarding house.
See id. at 267, 897
A.2d at 105.
At approximately 10:00 p.m., the petitioner was walking
down the road away from the boarding house when he was stopped
by a police officer.
By this time, other officers had found the
The officer asked the petitioner to stop so the
officer could ask him questions and check him for weapons.
During their brief conversation, the officer did not notice
anything unusual about the petitioner’s speech.
officer attempted to check the petitioner for weapons, the
petitioner swung at a second officer who had stopped to assist.
After a scuffle, the petitioner was arrested.
charged with the manager’s murder.
He was later
See id., 897 A.2d at 105.
In 2004, after a jury trial, the petitioner was convicted
of murder and sentenced to fifty-three years imprisonment.
petitioner challenged his conviction on direct appeal on three
there was insufficient evidence to support his
conviction for murder; the court improperly refused his request
to charge the jury that use of a deadly weapon, considered
alone, does not establish intent to kill; and the trial court
improperly instructed the jury on the state’s burden to prove
his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The Connecticut Appellate
Court affirmed the conviction and the Connecticut Supreme Court
See State v. LaSalle, 95 Conn. App. 263,
265, 897 A.2d 101, 104, cert. denied, 279 Conn. 908, 901 A.2d
In 2006, the petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas
corpus in state court on the ground that trial counsel was
ineffective and deprived him of his right to testify in his own
The state court denied the petition and the appeal was
See LaSalle v. Commissioner of Correction, No.
CV064001260, 2011 WL 1888411 (Conn. Super. Ct. Apr. 29, 2011),
appeal dismissed, 139 Conn. App. 910, 56 A.3d 763 (2012), cert.
denied, 308 Conn. 916, 62 A.3d 527 (2013).
commenced this action by petition received November 11, 2013.
III. Standard of Review
The federal court will entertain a petition for writ of
habeas corpus challenging a state court conviction only if the
petitioner claims that his custody violates the Constitution or
28 U.S.C. § 2254(a); Swarthout v. Cooke, ___ U.S.
___, 131 S. Ct. 859, 861 (2011) (federal habeas relief is not
available for violations of state law).
The federal court cannot grant a petition for a writ of
habeas corpus filed by a person in state custody with regard to
any claim that was rejected on the merits by the state court
unless the adjudication of the claim in state court either:
(1) resulted in a decision that was
contrary to, or involved an unreasonable
application of, clearly established Federal
law, as determined by the Supreme Court of
the United States; or
(2) resulted in a decision that was based
on an unreasonable determination of the
facts in light of the evidence presented in
the State court proceeding.
28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).
The federal law defined by the Supreme
Court “may be either a generalized standard enunciated in the
Court’s case law or a bright-line rule designed to effectuate
such a standard in a particular context.”
Kennaugh v. Miller,
289 F.3d 36, 42 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 537 U.S. 909 (2002).
Clearly established federal law is found in holdings, not dicta,
of the Supreme Court at the time of the state court decision.
Carey v. Musladin, 549 U.S. 70, 74 (2006).
Second Circuit law
which does not have a counterpart in Supreme Court jurisprudence
cannot provide a basis for federal habeas relief.
See Renico v.
Lett, 559 U.S. 766, 778 (2010) (holding that court of appeals
erred in relying on its own decision in a federal habeas
Thus, where holdings of the Supreme Court regarding
the issue presented on habeas review are lacking, the state
court cannot be said to have unreasonably applied clearly
established federal law.
See Carey v. Musladin, 549 U.S. 70, 77
A decision is “contrary to” clearly established federal law
where the state court applies a rule different from that set
forth by the Supreme Court or if it decides a case differently
than the Supreme Court on essentially the same facts.
Cone, 535 U.S. 685, 694 (2002).
A state court unreasonably
applies Supreme Court law when the court has correctly
identified the governing law, but unreasonably applies that law
to the facts of the case.
The state court decision must be more than incorrect; it
must be “so lacking in justification that there was an error
well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any
possibility of fairminded disagreement.”
Harrington v. Richter,
562 U.S. ___, 131 S. Ct. 770, 786-87 (2011).
See also Burt v.
Titlow, ___ U.S. ___, 134 S. Ct. 10, 15 (2013) (federal habeas
relief warranted only where the state criminal justice system
has experienced an “extreme malfunction”); Schriro v. Landrigan,
550 U.S. 465, 473 (2007) (objective unreasonableness is “a
substantially higher threshold” than incorrectness).
When reviewing a habeas petition, the federal court
presumes that the factual determinations of the state court are
The petitioner has the burden of rebutting that
presumption by clear and convincing evidence.
28 U.S.C. §
2254(e)(1); Cullen v. Pinholster, ___ U.S. ___, 131 S. Ct. 1388,
1398 (2011) (standard for evaluating state-court rulings where
constitutional claims have been considered on the merits and
which affords state-court rulings the benefit of the doubt is
highly deferential and difficult for petitioner to meet).
presumption of correctness, which applies to “historical facts,
that is, recitals of external events and the credibility of the
witnesses narrating them,” will be overturned only if the
material facts were not adequately developed by the state court
or if the factual determination is not adequately supported by
Smith v. Mann, 173 F.3d 73, 76 (2d Cir. 1999)
(internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
In addition, the federal court’s review under section
2254(d)(1) is limited to the record that was before the state
court that adjudicated the claim on the merits.
S. Ct. at 1398-99.
Because collateral review of a conviction
applies a different standard than direct appeal, an error that
may have supported reversal on direct appeal will not
necessarily be sufficient to grant a habeas petition.
Abrahamson, 507 U.S. 619, 634 (1993).
The petitioner challenges his conviction on four grounds:
(1) there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction
(Doc. #1 at 64); (2) the trial court refused to provide a
requested charge that use of a weapon does not, in and of
itself, constitute proof of intent to commit murder (Doc. #1-8
(3) the trial court provided a deficient jury charge on
reasonable doubt (Doc. #1-8 at 96); and (4) trial counsel was
ineffective (Doc. #1-8 at 104).
These are the same grounds he
raised on direct appeal and in his state habeas action.
Sufficiency of the Evidence
The petitioner first argues that his due process rights
were violated because there was insufficient evidence to support
The Due Process Clause protects a criminal defendant
against conviction except upon proof beyond a reasonable doubt
of every fact necessary to constitute the crime with which he is
Fiori v. White, 531 U.S. 225, 228-29 (2001).
courts, however, do not relitigate state trials and make
independent determinations of guilt or innocence.
v. Collins, 506 U.S. 390, 401-02 (1993).
When a federal habeas petitioner challenges the sufficiency
of the evidence used to convict him, the court must “‘view the
evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution’” and
determine whether “‘any rational trier of fact could have found
the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.’”
Coleman v. Johnson, ___ U.S. ___, 132 S. Ct. 2060, 2064 (2012)
(quoting Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319 (1979)).
court must defer to the trier of fact and presume that the trier
of fact resolved any conflicts in favor of the prosecution.
Thus, constitutional sufficiency of the evidence review is
See Wright v. West, 505 U.S. 277, 296 (1992).
Credibility determinations, for example, generally are beyond
the scope of review.
See Schlup v. Delo, 513 U.S. 298, 330
When considering a sufficiency of the evidence claim, the
federal court looks to state law to determine the elements of
Ponnapula v. Spitzer, 297 F.3d 172, 179 (2d Cir.
The federal court is bound by a state court’s
interpretation of state law.
Bradshaw v. Richey, 546 U.S. 74,
Although the Connecticut Appellate Court did not cite any
federal law when articulating the standard of review for
insufficiency of the evidence claims, the state court’s analysis
conforms to the federal standard.
Thus, the decision of the
Connecticut Appellate Court is not contrary to clearly
established federal law.
See Early v. Packer, 537 U.S. 3, 8
(2002) (holding that state court need not be aware of nor cite
relevant Supreme Court cases, so long as the reasoning and
decision do not contradict the applicable law).
considers below whether the Connecticut Appellate Court’s
analysis of the sufficiency of the evidence claim reasonably
applied clearly established federal law.
The petitioner argued in state court that there was
insufficient evidence of his intent to kill the manager because
there was uncontroverted evidence that he was intoxicated.
Connecticut Appellate Court disagreed.
The Connecticut Appellate Court noted that intent often is
inferred from conduct, the cumulative effect of circumstantial
evidence and inferences that may be drawn therefrom.
example, intent to cause death may be inferred from the type of
weapon used, the manner in which the weapon was used, the type
of wounds inflicted and the events immediately preceding and
following the death.
Also, intent to cause death can be
inferred from evidence that the killer had a motive.
95 Conn. App. at 270, 897 A.2d at 107.
The prosecution had presented evidence that the manager had
recently told the petitioner that he was being evicted from the
boarding house, the petitioner was angry and had made
threatening remarks to two other tenants in the hours before the
death, the petitioner was seen in clothing covered in blood
shortly after the death, and many items belonging to the
petitioner and covered with the manager’s blood were found in
the petitioner’s room, common areas of the boarding house and on
The Connecticut Appellate Court
considered this sufficient evidence of the petitioner’s state of
mind at the time of the incident.
In addition, the manager was
stabbed multiple times with a sharp knife, once with enough
force to cut his rib, lung and aorta.
The Connecticut Appellate
Court noted that a person who uses a deadly weapon on a vital
part of another person is deemed to intend the probable result
of his action.
Thus, the court considered it reasonable for the
jury to infer intent to kill the manager.
Id. at 270-72, 897
A.2d at 107-08.
Further, although the petitioner characterized evidence of
his intoxication as uncontroverted, several police officers
testified that the petitioner spoke normally and did not display
any signs of intoxication following the incident.
offered to support the claim of intoxication was expert
testimony based on assumptions regarding the type of alcohol the
petitioner had consumed and how much he consumed after the
There was no evidence presented regarding the type of
alcohol consumed or how much alcohol the petitioner had consumed
prior to the death.
Id. at 273, 897 A.2d at 108.
The Connecticut Appellate Court noted that the jury had the
responsibility to determine whether the petitioner was
intoxicated and, if so, whether he still was able to form the
intent to kill the manager.
The jury heard evidence that the
petitioner had tried to conceal the murder by washing the knife
and hiding his bloodstained clothing.
This conduct, occurring
after the murder, could show consciousness of guilt and intent
to conceal the evidence of the crime.
Construing the evidence
presented in the light most favorable to sustaining the verdict,
the Connecticut Appellate Court concluded that the jury
reasonably could have found that the petitioner was able to form
the intent to kill the manager.
Id. at 272-73, 897 A.2d at 108.
The federal court cannot reweigh the evidence or secondguess the jury.
1, 7 n.* (2011).
See Cavazos v. Smith, ___ U.S. ___, 132 S. Ct.
In light of the evidence presented, the
Connecticut Appellate Court reasonably concluded that there was
sufficient evidence for the jury to find that the petitioner had
the intent to kill the manager.
As the Connecticut Appellate
Court’s analysis of this claim was a reasonable application of
Supreme Court law, habeas relief is not warranted.
the petition is denied on this ground.
Jury Charge: Intent
In his second ground for relief, the petitioner challenges
the trial court’s refusal to instruct the jury that the use of a
deadly weapon, standing alone, does not constitute intent to
He argued in state court that the failure to
give this instruction shifted the state’s burden of proof on the
element of intent and denied him due process.
“[N]ot every ambiguity, inconsistency, or deficiency in a
jury instruction rises to the level of a due process violation.
The question is ‘whether the ailing instruction … so infected
the entire trial that the resulting conviction violates due
Middleton v. McNeil, 541 U.S. 433, 437 (2004)
(quoting Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 72 (1991) (quoting
Cupp v. Naughten, 414 U.S. 141, 147 (1973))).
must show “both that the instruction was ambiguous and that
there was ‘“reasonable likelihood”’ that the jury applied the
instruction in a way that relieved the State of its burden of
proving every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Waddington v. Sarausad, 555 U.S. 179, 190-91 (2009) (citations
“‘“[A] single instruction to a jury may not be judged
in artificial isolation, but must be viewed in the context of
the overall charge.”’”
Middleton, 541 U.S. at 437 (quoting
Boyde v. California, 494 U.S. 370, 378 (1990) (quoting Cupp, 414
U.S. at 146-47)).
Although the Connecticut Appellate Court cited only state
cases, the law it applied is consistent with the federal
The Connecticut Appellate Court reviewed the jury
instructions in their entirety and considered whether the
petitioner was denied a fair trial.
is not contrary to Supreme Court law.
Thus, the court’s analysis
The court next considers
whether the analysis is a reasonable application of Supreme
The trial court instructed the jury regarding intent as
The first element is that the defendant had
the intent to cause the death of another
person, here, [the manager]. The state must
prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the
defendant in causing the death of [the
manager] did so with the specific intent to
There is no particular length of time
necessary for the defendant to have formed
the specific intent to kill. Intent relates
to the condition of mind of the person who
commits the act, his purpose in doing it.
As defined by our statute, a person acts
intentionally with respect to a result when
his conscious objective is to cause such
result. Intentional conduct is purposeful
conduct rather than conduct that is
accidental or inadvertent.
What a person’s intent has been is usually a
matter to be determined by inference. No
person is able to testify that he looked
into another’s mind and saw therein a
certain intention to do harm to another.
The only way in which a jury can ordinarily
determine what a person’s intention was at
any given time, aside from that person’s own
statements, is by determining what that
person’s conduct was and what the
circumstances were surrounding that conduct
and, from those, infer what his intention
The type and number of wounds inflicted, as
well as the instrument used, may be
considered as evidence of the perpetrator’s
intent and, from such evidence, an inference
may be drawn in some cases that there was
intent to cause a death. Any inference that
may be drawn from the nature of the
instrumentality used and the manner of its
use is an inference of fact to be drawn by
the jury upon consideration of these and all
other circumstances in the case in
accordance with my previous instructions on
Declarations and conduct of the accused
before and after the infliction of wounds
may be considered if you find that they tend
to show the defendant’s intent. Therefore,
you may draw all reasonable and logical
inferences from the conduct you may find the
defendant engaged in in light of all the
surrounding circumstances and, from [those],
determine whether the state has proven the
essential element of intent beyond a
The inference is not a necessary one; that
is, you are not required to infer intent
from the accused’s alleged conduct, but it
is an inference you may draw if you find it
is reasonable and logical and in accordance
with my instructions on circumstantial
evidence. I again remind you that the
burden of proving intent beyond a reasonable
doubt is on the state.
LaSalle, 95 Conn. App. at 274-75, 897 A.2d at 109 (emphasis
added by appellate court).
The Connecticut Appellate Court emphasized the facts that
instruction was couched in permissive, not mandatory, language;
clearly stated that the jury was not required to draw an
inference based on the petitioner’s conduct; and contained two
references to the requirement that the state bore the burden of
demonstrating intent beyond a reasonable doubt.
concluded that these facts ensured that the jury was not misled
by the omission of the requested language.
Id. at 276-77, 897
A.2d at 110.
The Supreme Court has upheld permissive inferences where
the jury is allowed, but not required, to draw an inference.
The inference will be upheld as constitutional as long as the
inference is not irrational.
Because the state must prove the
underlying facts and convince the jury that these facts warrant
the suggested inference, a permissive inference does not shift
the burden of proof from the state.
See Francis v. Franklin,
471 U.S. 307, 314-15 (1985); Ulster County Court v. Allen, 442
U.S. 140, 157-63 (1979).
The Connecticut Appellate Court’s analysis of this issue
and its determination that the jury instructions described only
a permissive inference are a reasonable application of Supreme
Accordingly, federal habeas corpus relief is not
warranted on this claim.
Jury Charge: Reasonable Doubt
The petitioner also challenges the jury instruction on
He argues that the definition of reasonable
doubt as “something more than a guess or surmise” and “a real
doubt, an honest doubt” was incorrect and diluted the state’s
burden of proof.
Although due process requires application of the beyond-areasonable-doubt standard, “the Constitution neither prohibits
trial courts from defining reasonable doubt nor requires them to
do so as a matter of course.”
Victor v. Nebraska, 511 U.S. 1, 5
No particular words are required.
considered in its entirety, however, must “correctly conve[y]
the concept of reasonable doubt to the jury.’”
Holland v. United States, 348 U.S. 121, 140 (1954)).
must consider “‘whether there is a reasonable likelihood that
the jury has applied the challenged instruction in a way’ that
violates the Constitution.”
Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 72
The Connecticut Appellate Court cited and applied Supreme
Court precedent in analyzing the specified language in the
context of the charge as a whole.
contrary to Supreme Court law.
Thus, its decision is not
The court next considers whether
the analysis is a reasonable application of Supreme Court law.
The trial court defined reasonable doubt as follows:
The phrase “reasonable doubt” has no
technical or unusual meaning. You can arrive at
its real meaning by emphasizing the word
“reasonable.” A reasonable doubt is a doubt
which is something more than a guess or a
surmise. It is not conjecture or a fanciful
doubt. A reasonable doubt is not a doubt which
is raised by someone simply for the sake of
A reasonable doubt, in other words, is a
real doubt, an honest doubt, a doubt which has
its foundation in the evidence or lack of
Proof beyond a reasonable doubt does not
mean proof beyond all doubt. The law does not
require absolute certainty on the part of the
jury before it returns a verdict of guilty.
The law requires that after hearing all of
the evidence, if there is something in the
evidence or lack of evidence that leaves in the
minds of the jurors as reasonable men and women,
a reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the
accused, then the accused must be given the
benefit of that doubt and found not guilty.
Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is proof
that precluded every reasonable hypothesis except
guilt and is inconsistent with any other rational
Doc. #9, Resp’t’s Mem. App. N, Transcript of Apr. 19, 2004, at
The Connecticut Appellate Court noted the federal
constitution does not require any specific language to define
reasonable doubt and that the language challenged here had been
upheld by the state appellate courts.
Based on prior state
appellate decisions and a review of the entire charge given in
this case, the court concluded that the jury “instruction
accurately conveyed the concept of reasonable doubt to the
LaSalle, 95 Conn. App. at 278-79, 897 A.2d at 111.
The Supreme Court rejected a jury charge that equated
reasonable doubt with “grave uncertainty” and an “actual
substantial doubt” and further explained that the jury must
conclude to a “moral certainty” that the defendant was guilty.
Cage v. Louisiana, 489 U.S. 39, 41 (1990) (internal quotation
The Court concluded that the words
“substantial” and “grave” suggested a higher degree of doubt
that the standard required.
In addition, “the reference to
‘moral certainty’ rather that evidentiary certainty” would
allow the jury to reach a verdict of guilty on a lesser degree
of proof that is required under the Due Process Clause.
In Victor, the Supreme Court considered a definition of
reasonable doubt as a “substantial doubt.”
511 U.S. at 19-20.
Although the Court acknowledged that, taken alone, the phrase is
confusing and could lead “to an overstatement of the doubt
necessary to acquit,” it considered the phrase in context and
concluded that the remainder of the instruction made clear that
the term “substantial” was used to refer to the “existence
rather than magnitude of the doubt.”
Id. at 20.
Court held that the instruction was not unconstitutional.
Court also considered an instruction that “a reasonable doubt is
‘not a mere possible doubt.”
Id. at 17.
The Court rejected
this challenge because the remainder of the instruction
demonstrated that the language was intended to distinguish a
reasonable doubt from a fanciful or imaginary doubt.
The challenged language in this case is similar to the
language upheld in Victor.
The trial court referenced a real
doubt or an honest doubt in contrast to a guess or surmise and
emphasized that the doubt must derive from the evidence or lack
In addition, the trial court repeatedly emphasized the
state’s burden of proof.
The Connecticut Appellate Court’s
analysis of this claim comports with, and therefore is a
reasonable application of, Supreme Court law.
The petition for
writ of habeas corpus is denied on this ground.
Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
In his final ground for relief, the petitioner argues that
trial counsel was ineffective when, after the plaintiff told
counsel he would testify falsely, she threatened to leave him on
the stand with no help.
The petitioner states that counsel told
him he could not lie under oath and he agreed to tell the truth.
Strickland v. Washington, 446 U.S. 668 (1984), “is the
relevant ‘clearly established Federal law, as determined by the
Supreme Court of the United States’” on claims of ineffective
assistance of counsel.
Aparicio v. Artuz, 269 F.3d 78, 95 & n.8
(2d Cir. 2001) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1)).
assistance claim under Strickland has two components.
the petitioner must show that counsel’s performance was
deficient “under prevailing professional norms”; second, that
the deficiency must have prejudiced the defense.
Alabama, ___ U.S. ___, 134 S. Ct. 1081, 1088 (2014) (quoting
Padilla v. Kentucky, 559 U.S. 356, 366 (2010) (citing
Strickland, 446 U.S. at 687)).
The petitioner “must do more
than show that he would have satisfied Strickland’s test if his
claim were being analyzed in the first instance....”
Cone, 535 U.S. 685, 698–99 (2002).
He must show that the state
court applied Strickland to the facts of his case in an
objectively unreasonable manner.
Id. (citation omitted).
Counsel is presumed to be competent.
Thus, the petitioner
bears the burden of demonstrating unconstitutional
See United States v. Cronic, 466 U.S. 648, 658
The court evaluates counsel’s conduct at the time the
decisions were made, not in hindsight, and affords substantial
deference to counsel’s decisions.
U.S. 374, 381 (2005).
See Rompilla v. Beard, 545
To satisfy the prejudice prong of the
Strickland test, the petitioner must show that there is a
“reasonable probability that, but for counsel’s unprofessional
errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different”;
the probability must “undermine confidence in the outcome” of
Strickland, 466 U.S. at 694.
To prevail, the
petitioner must demonstrate both deficient performance and
See Strickland, 466 U.S. at 700.
if the court finds one prong of the standard lacking, it need
not consider the remaining prong.
The state court applied the standard established in
Because the state court applied the correct legal
standard, the state court decision cannot meet the “contrary to”
prong of section 2254(d)(1).
The court will consider the last
reasoned state court decision to determine whether the decision
is an unreasonable application of federal law.
Nunnemaker, 501 U.S. 797, 804 (1991).
See Ylst v.
Here, the court reviews
the decision of the Connecticut Superior Court on the petition
for writ of habeas corpus.
See Doc. #9, Resp’t’s Mem. App. G at
10-21; LaSalle v. Commissioner of Correction, No. CV06-4001260S, 2011 WL 1888411 (Conn. Super. Ct. Apr. 29, 2011).
In considering a federal habeas petition, the court does
not conduct a de novo review of the claims.
The function of the
federal court when reviewing a claim for ineffective assistance
of counsel under section 2254(d) is to determine “whether there
is any reasonable argument that counsel satisfied Strickland’s
Premo v. Moore, ___ U.S. ___, 131 S. Ct.
733, 740 (2011).
The petitioner states that he told defense counsel that he
intended to testify falsely.
He agreed to tell the truth when
counsel informed him that she would withdraw her representation
if he committed perjury.
The petitioner argues that his fear
that counsel would withdraw caused him to decline to testify at
trial and deprived him of his right to testify.
The habeas court noted that the petitioner had no
constitutional right to testify falsely, that defense counsel
had an ethical obligation to persuade the petitioner to tell the
The state court concluded that defense counsel conducted
herself properly in persuading the petitioner to testify
truthfully and did not prevent the petitioner from testifying at
Counsel only told the petitioner that she would withdraw
if he testified falsely.
Although she told him that, in her
opinion, he should not testify, she did not prevent him from
The court also concluded, after affording the
petitioner the opportunity at the habeas hearing to explain what
his testimony would have been, that the petitioner failed to
demonstrate prejudice from his decision not to testify at trial.
Id. at 19-21, 2011 WL 1888411, at *5-6.
The state court considered both the performance and
prejudice prongs of the Strickland test and concluded that
defense counsel was not ineffective.
The state court analysis
of the performance prong comports with Supreme Court law.
if a defendant’s false testimony might have persuaded the jury
to acquit him, it is not fundamentally unfair to conclude that
he was not prejudiced by counsel’s interference with his
Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 392 (2000)
(citing Nix v. Whiteside, 475 U.S. 157, 175-76 (1986)).
After careful consideration, this court concludes that the
state court’s analysis of this claim was a reasonable
application of Supreme Court law.
Accordingly, the petition for
writ of habeas corpus is denied on this ground.
The petition for writ of habeas corpus [Doc. #1] is DENIED.
Because the petitioner has not shown that he was denied a
constitutional right, a certificate of appealability will not
The Clerk is directed to enter judgment close this case.
It is so ordered.
Janet Bond Arterton
United States District Judge
Entered this 8th day of July 2014, at New Haven, Connecticut.
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