TIMOTHY GRIFFIN v. COMMISSIONER OF CORRECTION, SC 18287
Judicial District of Tolland
Habeas; Whether Allegations Contained in Habeas Petition should have been Deemed as Admitted Pursuant to Practice Book § 10-19 where Respondent's Return Failed to Respond to those Allegations; Whether Petitioner's Guilty Pleas were not Knowing, Intelligent and Voluntary where his Trial Attorney Allegedly Advised him that his Pleas would Result in a Sentence of Twenty-Five Years of Incarceration when there was no Agreed Upon Sentence. In 1999, the petitioner, who was then fifteen years of age, pleaded guilty to felony murder and conspiracy to commit robbery in the first degree and was sentenced to forty years of incarceration. Thereafter, he filed a second amended petition for a writ of habeas corpus, claiming, among other things, that his guilty pleas were not knowing, intelligent and voluntary because the trial court's plea canvass was defective and because his trial attorney improperly advised him that his pleas would result in a sentence of twenty-five years of incarceration when, in fact, the pleas were "open" in that there was no agreed upon sentence. During the course of the habeas proceeding, the petitioner argued that the respondent's return to the second amended petition failed to respond to the allegations concerning his trial attorney's improper advice, and, therefore, those allegations should be deemed to be admitted pursuant to Practice Book § 10-19. In response to the petitioner's contention, the respondent requested permission to amend the return on the ground that the failure to respond to the allegations was merely the result of a scrivener's error. The habeas court ruled that because the respondent had at that point expressly denied the previously unanswered allegations by requesting to correct an apparent scrivener's error, it would be inappropriate to deem those allegations as admitted. The court went on to reject the petitioner's voluntariness claim, deciding that the petitioner failed to submit any objective evidence to corroborate his subjective belief that he was supposed to receive a sentence of twenty-five years of incarceration. The court added that the petitioner's trial attorney properly advised him of the meaning and effect of his open pleas, and, therefore, any misunderstanding on his part was unreasonable. It also concluded that the evidence failed to establish that the plea canvass was defective or that the petitioner was laboring under any misapprehension of the implications of his open pleas at the time of the plea canvass. The court further emphasized that in light of the fact that the evidence against the petitioner was overwhelming, a trial would have almost certainly resulted in a conviction, which would have potentially led to a significantly lengthier prison term. In this appeal, the Supreme Court will determine whether the habeas court's conclusions were proper.