Newly discovered evidence can have an impact on Connecticut habeas corpus cases. You can learn more here.
An attack on the judgment based on newly discovered evidence is permissible in habeas. See General Statutes § 52-470(e).
Petition for New Trial
A claim of newly discovered evidence can, in certain instances, justify a petition for new trial pursuant to General Statutes §§ 54-95(a) and 52-270(a) and Practice Book § 42-55. This right, however, gets limited by General Statutes § 52-582 which holds that “[n]o petition for a new trial in any civil or criminal proceeding shall be brought but within three years next after the rendition of the judgment or decree complained of, except that a petition based on DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) evidence that was not discoverable or available at the time of the original trial may be brought at any time after the discovery or availability of such new evidence.”
A petition for new trial under General Statutes §§ 54 -95(a) and 52- 270(a) and Practice Book § 42-55 must happen in the trial court. The test used in the trial court to decide the petition is “‘whether an injustice was done and whether it is probable that on a new trial a different result would be reached.’” Summerville v. Warden, 229 Conn. 397, 425-26 (1994) (quoting Taborsky v. State , 142 Conn. 619, 623 (1955)); see also Asherman v. State, 202 Conn. 429, 434 (1987)(articulating four sub-parts of the test); Reilly v. State , 32 Conn. Sup. 349, 356 (Speziale, J.) . The petitioner bears the burden of proof on a petition for new trial and the standard of proof is “preponderance of the evidence.” Seebeck v. State, 246 Conn. 514, 545 (1998).
Newly Discovered Evidence
When the newly discovered evidence constitutes a recantation of trial testimony by an original criminal trial witness, the test set forth in Pradlik v. State, 131 Conn. 682 (1945), determines whether the petition for new trial should get granted. See Johnson v. State, 36 Conn. App. 59, 64-65 (Pradlik applies to recantations), cert. denied, 231 Conn. 946 (1994).
The test provides that a new trial should be granted when: “(a) The court is reasonably well satisfied that the testimony given by a material witness is false. (b) That without it the jury might have reached a different conclusion. (c) That the party seeking the new trial was taken by surprise when the false testimony was given and was unable to meet it or did not know of its falsity until after the trial.” Pradlik v. State, 131 Conn. at 687 (quoting Larrison v. United States , 24 F.2d 82, 87 (7th Cir. 1928)); accord Johnson v. State, 36 Conn. App. at 65; see also Morant v. State, 68 Conn. App. 137, 150-160, cert. denied, 260 Conn. 914 (2002); Channer v. State, 54 Conn. App. 620, 627, cert. denied, 251 Conn. 910 (1999).
Habeas counsel must assess whether a newly discovered evidence claim can or should get brought in the trial court instead of the habeas court. The considerations will include the differing statute of limitations, see § 52-582 (statute of limitations for new trial petitions); § 52- 470(c)(d)(e)(f)(statute of limitations for habeas petitions), and the differing standards of proof.
Also see Summerville v. Warden, 229 Conn. at 424-33 (on new trial petition, preponderance of evidence standard, probability of different result); Miller v. Commissioner, 242 Conn. 745, 747, 791-92, 800 (1997)(on habeas petition, clear and convincing evidence standard, no reasonable fact finder would convict). Habeas counsel should also be mindful of the Connecticut Supreme Court’s holding in Gould v. Commissioner, 301 Conn. 544 (2011), that a recantation does not constitute clear and convincing evidence of actual innocence, to the extent an actual innocence claim is alleged in the habeas petition. Id. at 546-65.
When a claim of newly discovered evidence gets brought in a habeas petition, it should get pled as a freestanding claim. Whether it should also be couched in an ineffective assistance of counsel claim depends upon the facts and circumstances of the case.