GARY CASTONGUAY v. COMMISSIONER OF CORRECTION, SC 18599
Judicial District of Tolland at Somers
Habeas; Sentence Calculation; Whether the Petitioner's Maximum Term of Incarceration for a Capital Felony Committed Prior to 1981 Should be 60 Years Rather Than Natural Life. In 1989, the trial court convicted the petitioner of capital felony in connection with the 1977 shooting death of a police officer, and it sentenced him to twenty-five years to life imprisonment. The petitioner later commenced this habeas action, alleging that the respondent improperly calculated his sentence as authorizing confinement for the remainder of his natural life. He asserted that General Statutes § 53a-35b, which went into effect on July 1, 1981, defines "life imprisonment" as a definite sentence of sixty years of incarceration. He further asserted that because his sentencing date was subsequent to the effective date of § 53a-35b, which abolished indeterminate sentencing and created determinate sentencing, the respondent improperly failed to sentence him to sixty years of incarceration pursuant under § 53a-35b. He further claimed that a prisoner serving a sixty-year sentence for an offense committed prior to October 1, 1994, is entitled to have his discharge date reduced by presentence confinement credits, presentence confinement good time credit and various other credits. The respondent argued that since the petitioner was convicted of a crime committed in 1977, before the effective date of § 53a-35b, he was sentenced pursuant to General Statutes § 53a-35, which, at the time of the offense, provided that the maximum term for a capital felony was an indeterminate term of life imprisonment unless a sentence of death was imposed. The respondent and the petitioner filed cross motions for summary judgment, and the trial court granted the respondent's motion and denied the petitioner's motion. In so ruling, it found that since the petitioner was sentenced in 1989 for offenses that occurred in 1977, he was sentenced in accordance with the pre-1981 indeterminate sentencing scheme governed by § 53a-35. Hence, it determined that the petitioner's claim that the respondent incorrectly calculated his sentence was without merit. Moreover, it found that its conclusion that § 35a-35b is inapplicable to the petitioner's sentence was also dispositive of the petitioner's claim that he was entitled to have presentence confinement and other statutory good time credits applied to his life sentence. In this appeal, the Supreme Court will determine whether the trial court improperly failed to calculate the petitioner's maximum term of incarceration as sixty years under § 53a-35b.