MICHAEL T. v. COMMISSIONER OF CORRECTION, SC 18676
Judicial District of Tolland
Habeas; Ineffective Assistance of Counsel; Whether the Appellate Court Properly Ruled that the Petitioner met his Burden of Showing Deficient Performance and Prejudice Within the Meaning of Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). The petitioner, who had been convicted of sexual assault and risk of injury to a minor, brought this habeas action alleging ineffective assistance of trial counsel. In accordance with Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), the habeas court held that trial counsel's failure to call an expert witness constituted ineffective assistance of counsel that had been prejudicial to the petitioner. It determined that trial counsel should have utilized an expert to challenge the state's presentation of testimony from several experts that the minor victim's trichomonas infection was the result of sexual abuse. In reaching its decision, the habeas court relied on the testimony of physician Suzanne M. Sgroi, who testified with regard to mistakes, flaws and omissions in the petitioner's trial and stated that the victim could have contracted trichomonas by living in the same home with somebody who had the infection and who was not careful about hygiene. The state appealed to the Appellate Court (122 Conn. App. 416), claiming that the habeas court improperly ruled that trial counsel was ineffective. The state claimed that: (1) trial counsel's cross-examination of the state's witnesses and his argument to the jury sufficiently informed the jury of the possibility of nonsexual transmission of trichomonas, (2) trial counsel's decision not to present expert evidence may have been the result of sound trial strategy, and (3) Sgroi's testimony may not have been admissible at trial. In rejecting the state's arguments, the Appellate Court indicated that the state did not proffer a reasoned basis for rejecting the habeas court's determination that trial counsel was ineffective in failing to consult or call a medical expert where medical testimony was central to the case. As to the state's argument regarding Sgroi's testimony, it noted that the habeas court was not asked to address the admissibility of such testimony, and it declined to overturn the habeas court's judgment on that ground. Moreover, it determined that the state had failed to present a reasoned argument as to why the habeas court improperly found that prejudice had been established. It therefore affirmed the judgment of the habeas court. In this appeal, the Supreme Court will determine whether the Appellate Court properly ruled that the petitioner met his burden of showing deficient performance and prejudice.