DANA MOZELL v. COMMISSIONER OF CORRECTION, SC 18196

Judicial District of New Haven

 

      Habeas; Whether Petitioner was Denied Due Process When First Habeas Judge Declared a Mistrial and Second Habeas Judge Relied on Transcripts From Mistrial; Whether Defense Counsel was Ineffective in Failing to Locate and Present Exculpatory Witnesses; Whether Court Neglected to Consider All Evidence When Evaluating Claim of Actual Innocence.  In this habeas action, the petitioner alleged ineffective assistance of trial counsel, actual innocence and newly discovered evidence, among other things.  The petitioner filed his petition for writ of habeas corpus in 1997, and his trial on the petition commenced in October of 2001.  In 2002, after several days of hearing evidence, the habeas judge declared a mistrial apparently because he had been transferred to a different judicial district.  At that point, the case was virtually concluded except for the petitioner's expert and trial counsel's testimony for the respondent's case.  The parties later met with the successor judge and agreed to have the court hear the remaining witnesses and decide the case by adopting the trial transcripts and incorporating the evidence already heard, rather than commencing a trial de novo.  Thereafter, the successor judge denied the habeas petition.  In rejecting the petitioner's claim that his trial counsel was ineffective in failing to locate and present two exculpatory witnesses, the court concluded that trial counsel was prepared for trial and conducted a vigorous defense of a weak case.  With regard to the value of such witnesses, it further determined that counsel properly decided that they would do more harm than good.  The court also found that the petitioner failed to prove his claim of actual innocence and that he had not produced newly discovered evidence sufficient to overcome the state's evidence.  In this appeal, the Supreme Court will determine whether the first habeas judge denied the petitioner due process of law when he declared a mistral and whether the second habeas judge denied the petitioner due process of law when he based his decision on the transcripts from the mistrial.  It will also determine whether the court properly rejected the petitioner's ineffective assistance of counsel claim and improperly failed to consider all of the evidence when evaluating his claim of actual innocence.