The Connecticut Supreme Court has overturned a Connecticut Appellate Court ruling in a case alleging defense counsel’s representation of a man convicted of various gun offenses.
The high court disagreed with the lower tribunal, which in June 2016 had ruled that an attorney for David Eubanks had flubbed the defense by failing to object to testimony by Eubanks’ girlfriend, Tanika McCotter, on the basis of double hearsay.
But attorneys for the Commissioner of Correction successfully argued that Eubanks’ claim was not eligible for review, because the defendant had raised the argument for the first time on appeal.
By a 6-0 Thursday ruling, the state’s high court agreed with the Commissioner of Correction and overturned the state appellate court ruling. It found Eubanks failed to present any evidence that his first counsel, Walter Bansley IV, of New Haven’s Bansley Anthony Burdo, provided deficient representation. It therefore reversed the lower court decision, and remanded the case with instructions to render judgment dismissing Eubanks’ appeal.
Bansley did not respond to a request for comment Monday.
In writing for the state’s high court, Justice Maria Araujo Kahn said the “petitioner bears the burden of proving that counsel’s representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness.” Citing Strickland v. Washington, Kahn wrote: “The performance inquiry must be whether counsel’s assistance was reasonable, considering all the circumstances. This, the question of whether counsel’s behavior was objectively unreasonable, is not only one which the petitioner bears the burden of proof. Its resolution turns on a fact-intensive inquiry.”
Eubanks was charged with several gun offenses and arrested in New Haven in 2008. He was charged in connection with a high-speed chase through the city, and weapons that police found in his vehicle. In testimony, McCotter said she had not seen a gun in the vehicle. She later said she had provided a statement that incriminated Eubanks and her brother in the shooting, but only because she felt pressured by police to do so.
Eubanks challenged the gun offenses in the Connecticut Appellate Court.
That court concluded the evidence presented at trial demonstrated Bansley’s failure to identify the hearsay within McCotter’s prior testimony, and the defense lawyer’s subsequent failure to object to the use of a transcript as substantive evidence.
But the justices disagreed.
“This court declined to second-guess [the] trial counsel’s decision,” Kahn wrote for the high court.
New Haven special public defender Deren Manasevit represented Eubanks on appeal. He did not respond to a request for comment Monday.
Four attorneys represented the Commissioners of Correction: Margaret Gaffney Radionovas, senior assistant state’s attorney; Patrick Griffin, state’s attorney; David Clifton, assistant state’s attorney; and Adrienne Russo, deputy assistant state’s attorney. Radionovas and Russo declined to comment, while Griffin and Clifton did not respond to a request for comment.