The post conviction habeas corpus process can speed by in the blink of an eye compared to the months and years spent litigating the case prior to the trial. A number of things happen in the final proceedings of habeas trials in Connecticut.
Habeas Trial Process
First and foremost, sometimes it becomes necessary to withdraw a habeas petition. This may be because you have discovered something new, or you want to change your petition and allege a new theory, and they court won’t permit an amendment this late in the process, or you are worried about litigating an issue that might not go in your favor.
Once you know you are going forward, your lawyer should prepare for the habeas trial. The Habeas trial in Connecticut generally takes place in Rockville, but in limited circumstances could be held at other courthouses. If you need to compel a witness to appear, you can issue a subpoena to have them appear at a hearing or trial. Of course, byt this time, your trial strategy is set and you should be ready to proceed.
One of the biggest issues in habeas trials is the testimony of the petitioner. The petitioner may never have testified in their original trial, so you should be ready to be the first witness called in a habeas trial. When you proceed, you should have all your transcripts and discovery ready. You can oftentimes make an agreement with the other side to premark exhibits.
If during the process of your habeas trial you discover new evidence, it should be treated carefully because this may be the first time it is publicly known.
The judge who is assigned to the habeas will review the evidence and make a decision on the case, and oftentimes it may be denied, but that doesn’t mean it is over. Only this stage of the process ends with a denial, you then have the ability to appeal if the judge made an error.
Closing argument at the conclusion of the habeas trial does not always happen, but habeas counsel should nevertheless prepare to succinctly summarize the evidence of counsel’s deficiencies, the prejudice that ensued, and the appropriate remedy.
Post Trial Brief
The post-trial brief, if requested or permitted by the habeas court, should also summarize the evidence adduced in support of the claimed deficiencies and the attendant prejudice, but in far greater detail than a closing argument. Each argument should also be supported by ample legal authority. The pertinent pages of the habeas trial transcript should also be cited. In that it may take several weeks or months for the court reporter to prepare the transcript, habeas counsel should request that the due date of the brief get extended to 30 or 45 days after receipt of the transcript.
Habeas counsel should also be prepared to submit proposed findings of fact should the court so request. Here again, the habeas trial transcript will be needed.
General Statutes § 52-470(a) states that, “[t]he court or judge hearing any habeas corpus shall proceed in a summary way to determine the facts and issues of the case, by hearing the testimony and arguments in the case, and shall inquire fully into the cause of imprisonment and thereupon dispose of the case as law and justice require.” See James L. v. Commissioner, 245 Conn. 132, 148 (1998) (“A habeas court must fashion a remedy appropriate to the constitutional right it seeks to vindicate.”); Gaines v. Manson, 194 Conn. 510, 516 (1984) (“In the adjudication of petitions for habeas corpus, the remedies available to a court depend upon the constitutional rights that are being vindicated.”); see also Practice Book § 23-34 Habeas Corpus—Summary Procedures for Habeas Corpus Petitions and § 23-37 Habeas Corpus—Summary Judgment. The habeas court must “render judgment not later than one hundred and twenty days from the completion date of the trial…” General Statutes § 51-183b. However, “[t]he parties may waive the provisions of this section.” Id.; see also Foote v. Commissioner, 125 Conn. App. 296 (2010). If the judgment gets rendered beyond the 120-day statutory deadline and the parties have not waived the deadline or consented to the late filing, the petitioner can move to set aside the judgment, seeking a new habeas trial as a remedy. See Foote v. Commissioner, 125 Conn. App. at 297-98, 307.
The habeas court has the authority, under General Statutes § 52-493, to issue any interlocutory or final order that may appear to be an appropriate form of relief for the claims raised in the petition.
Seek Legal Representation at Connecticut Habeas Trials
You need to make sure that your rights are protected during habeas trials in Connecticut. The best way to protect yourself is to contact an attorney and have them represent you throughout this process.