Failure to investigate for trial could be a factor used in a habeas corpus petition. You can learn more here.
The following are some of the more common claims of ineffective assistance of counsel.
Failure to Investigate for Trial
The Sixth Amendment and Article First, § 8 require defense counsel, “to investigate all surrounding circumstances of the case and to explore all avenues that may potentially lead to facts relevant to the defense of the case.” Williams v. Commissioner, 100 Conn. App. 94, 102, cert. denied, 282 Conn. 914 (2007). In addition, they, “impose on counsel a duty to investigate, because…effective assistance must be based on professional decisions and informed legal choices can be made only after investigation of options.” Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 680 (1984)(summarizing the holding of the Fifth Circuit); see also Siemon v. Stoughton, 184 Conn. 547, 554 (1981)(Article First, § 8 guarantees effective assistance of counsel); Id. at 557 (“Counsel must make his decisions on an informed basis”).
Also consider, in Siemon v. Stoughton, supra, 184 Conn. 547, the Connecticut Supreme Court held that, “[c]onstitutionally adequate assistance of counsel includes competent pretrial investigation.” 184 Conn. at 554 (citing State v. Clark, 170 Conn. 273, 283, cert. denied, 425 U.S. 962 (1976)). Also, this includes, “the duty…to investigate the relevant material in the state’s attorney’s file.” Siemon, 184 Conn. at 557.
In addition, the American Bar Association standards are informative. Standard 4-4.1 Duty To Investigate of ABA Standards for Criminal Justice, Defense Function (3rd Ed. 1993), provides in pertinent part: “(a) Defense counsel should conduct a prompt investigation of the circumstances of the case and to explore all avenues leading to facts relevant to the merits of the case…The investigation should include efforts to secure information in the possession of the prosecution and law enforcement authorities. The duty to investigate exists regardless of the accused’s admissions or statements to defense counsel…” In addition, see also Id. Commentary (“Facts form the basis of effective representation”).
Rules of Professional Conduct
Guidance also appears in the Rules of Professional Conduct. Rule 1.1 Competence states that, “[c]ompetent representation requires the…thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.” See also Id. Official Commentary (“The required attention and preparation are determined in part by what is at stake…”). Rule 1.3 Diligence holds that, “[a] lawyer shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client.”
An, “inadequate pretrial investigation is sufficient to constitute ineffective assistance of counsel.” Siemon, 184 Conn. at 556. And the, “failure to conduct an adequate investigation is not a matter of trial tactics.” Also see, Id. at 557. In addition, the latter principle was reaffirmed in Ostolaza v. Warden, 26 Conn. App. 758, 765, cert. denied, 222 Conn. 906 (1992)(“[t]he failure to conduct an adequate investigation cannot be excused in the penumbra of trial tactics”).
However, “strategic choices made after thorough investigation of law and facts relevant to plausible options are virtually unchallengeable; and strategic choices made after less than complete investigation are reasonable precisely to the extent that reasonable professional judgments support the limitations on the investigation. In other words, counsel has a duty to make reasonable investigations or to make a reasonable decision that makes particular investigations unnecessary. In any ineffectiveness case, a particular decision not to investigate [will] be directly assessed for reasonableness in all the circumstances, applying a heavy measure of deference to counsel’s judgments.” Also see Strickland, 466 U.S. at 690-91; see Gaines v. Commissioner, 306 Conn. 664, 680 (2012).
Williams v. Warden
In addition, Williams v. Warden states, “The reasonableness of an attorney’s investigative decisions often depends critically on the information supplied by his client.” Williams v. Warden, 217 Conn. 419, 426 (1991). Also, the investigative decision, however, must be evaluated in light of the information available to defense counsel from all sources and not just from the defendant. Thus, the principle that it is not deficient for defense counsel to fail to investigate a favorable witness that has not been made known to counsel by the defendant does not apply when counsel knew or should have known of the witness from other sources. See Gaines v. Commissioner, 306 Conn. at 684; see also Skakel v. Warden, Tolland J.D., at Rockville, Docket No. CV-10-4003762 (Bishop, J.T.R), Mem. Of Dec., Oct. 23, 2013, p. 55-56.
The issue of defense counsel’s failure to investigate was raised in the following habeas cases: Siemon, supra, 184 Conn. 547 (counsel ineffective for failing to investigate third-party culpability suspect); Gaines, 306 Conn. at 669-87 (performance deficient when investigation without explanation left two alibi witnesses undiscovered); Also see Thompson v. Commissioner, 131 Conn. App. 671, 694-97 (decision not to interview and present two witnesses did not render investigation inadequate because counsel determined that testimony would contradict defense theory), cert. denied, 303 Conn. 902 (2011).
In addition, consider Stepney v. Commissioner, 129 Conn. App. 364, 367-68 (2011) (failure to investigate and to introduce DNA report was matter of trial strategy); Davis v. Warden, 32 Conn. App. 296, 304-05 (decision not to investigate implausible alternative defense after proper investigation of murders and surrounding circumstances constituted reasonable professional judgment and effective assistance), cert. denied , 227 Conn. 924 (1993); Williams v. Bronson, 21 Conn. App. 260, 267- 68 (1990) (counsel not ineffective for failing to memorialize in writing witness’ statement at interview); Also see Chace v. Bronson, 19 Conn. App. 674, 678-80 (counsel not deficient for failing to expand investigation because counsel had sufficient information to conclude that additional interviews were unnecessary), cert. denied, 231 Conn. 801 (1989). Also remember, the foregoing list is not exhaustive.
Also, deficient performance stemming from counsel’s failure without adequate explanation to locate a favorable witness is discussed at length in J. Burkoff & N. Burkoff, Ineffective Assistance Of Counsel (2012 Ed.), §§ 6:34 and 7:19.