GEORGE M. v. COMMISSIONER OF CORRECTION, SC 17941

Judicial District of Tolland at Somers

 

Habeas; Statutory Good Time Credits; Whether Petitioner Found Guilty of Offenses Committed Between 1993 and 1995 is Eligible for Good Time Credit Under a Statutory Scheme that Prohibits the Awarding of Such Credit for Offenses Committed After October 1, 1994; Whether the Rule of Lenity Applies to the Interpretation of Good Time Credit Statutes. In 1998, the petitioner was convicted on charges of sexual assault and risk of injury to a child for incidents that occurred from 1993 through 1995. General Statutes 18-7a (c) provides that "[a]ny person sentenced to a term of imprisonment for an offense committed on or after July 1, 1983," may earn good time credit during the term of his imprisonment. A subsequently enacted statute, General Statutes 18-100d, eliminated good time credit for sentences imposed in connection with crimes committed on or after October 1, 1994. Here, for purposes of calculating the petitioner's release date, the respondent commissioner selected January 1, 1995, as the date of the petitioner's offenses and, consequently, determined that the petitioner was not eligible to earn good time credit pursuant to 18-100d. As a result, the petitioner filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus challenging the commissioner's decision. The habeas court concluded that, based on the evidence presented at the petitioner's criminal trial, the jury could have found that the petitioner committed the charged offenses on several occasions, both prior to and after October 1, 1994, and that the petitioner in fact committed all six discrete offenses after October 1, 1994. In light of those findings, the habeas court dismissed the petition, ruling that because the petitioner was convicted for offenses committed on or after October 1, 1994, he was not eligible to receive good time credits. The petitioner appealed from the habeas court's judgment. Contrary to the determination of the habeas court, the Appellate Court (101 Conn. App. 52) concluded that, having reviewed the record of the underlying criminal case, there was no basis upon which to conclude that the jury found that the petitioner necessarily committed any or all of the charged offenses on or after October 1, 1994. Consequently, since the dates of the petitioner's offenses encompassed and included dates prior to and following October 1, 1994, the court opined that an ambiguity existed regarding how the good time statutes applied to the petitioner's situation. Noting that the good time statutes could be used to reduce a criminal sentence, the court determined that such statutes were penal in nature and, therefore, the rule of lenity should be applied to their interpretation. Accordingly, applying the rule of lenity to resolve the ambiguity in the statutory scheme regarding the applicability of 18-7a to the petitioner's situation in his favor, the Appellate Court reversed the habeas court's judgment, ruling that the petitioner was eligible to earn good time credits as if his offenses were committed prior to October 1, 1994. In this appeal, the Supreme Court will review the Appellate Court's decision.