764 A.2d 168 (R.I. 2001), 98-300, Brennan v. Vose

Docket Nº:98-300-Appeal.
Citation:764 A.2d 168
Opinion Judge:GOLDBERG, Justice.
Party Name:Michael A. BRENNAN v. George A. VOSE, Jr. et al.
Attorney:Annie Goldberg, Aaron L. Weisman, Providence, for Plaintiff., Randy Olen, Providence, for Defendant., Present WEISBERGER, C.J., LEDERBERG, BOURCIER, FLANDERS, and GOLDBERG, JJ. Annie Goldberg, Aaron L. Weisman, Providence, for Plaintiff. Randy Olen, Providence, for Defendant.
Judge Panel:Present WEISBERGER, C.J., LEDERBERG, BOURCIER, FLANDERS, and GOLDBERG, JJ.
Case Date:January 12, 2001
Court:Supreme Court of Rhode Island
 
FREE EXCERPT

Page 168

764 A.2d 168 (R.I. 2001)

Michael A. BRENNAN

v.

George A. VOSE, Jr. et al.

No. 98-300-Appeal.

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

January 12, 2001.

Page 169

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 170

Annie Goldberg, Aaron L. Weisman, Providence, for Plaintiff.

Randy Olen, Providence, for Defendant.

Present WEISBERGER, C.J., LEDERBERG, BOURCIER, FLANDERS, and GOLDBERG, JJ.

OPINION

GOLDBERG, Justice.

This case came before the Supreme Court on December 4, 2000, on appeal from the denial of Michael A. Brennan's application for postconviction relief filed pursuant to G.L.1956 § 10-9.1-1. We affirm.

Facts and Travel

Michael A. Brennan (Brennan or applicant) and his brother Thomas (Thomas) were tried separately for the brutal murder of eighty-one-year-old Lawrence Bello. Each was convicted of felony murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. Both convictions were upheld by this Court. The events that give rise to this appeal are set out in State v. Brennan, 526 A.2d 483 (R.I.1987). In brief, the facts are as follows.

On the morning of January 18, 1984, detectives found the body of eighty-one-year-old Lawrence Bello on the floor of his Providence apartment. The scene was horrific; Mr. Bello had been beaten, tortured, and brutally murdered. A bloody knife lay next to the victim's body, the word "kill," written in what appeared to be blood, was found on the wall. The entire apartment had been ransacked; there were overturned tables and mattresses, drawers emptied onto the floor, and holes punched in the walls. There was no sign of forced entry. Brennan and his brother Thomas, both of whom resided with their mother, a tenant of Mr. Bello's, in an apartment adjacent to the murder scene, subsequently were arrested for the murder.

Based on the evidence presented at trial, a jury convicted Brennan of felony murder, with robbery as the underlying felony. That conviction was affirmed by this Court. Brennan then filed an application for postconviction relief with the Providence County Superior Court. That application was denied. It is the denial of that application from which Brennan now appeals.

Discussion

The applicant has raised several arguments in support of his appeal. First, Brennan contended that he was deprived of a fair trial as a result of the ineffective assistance of his trial counsel, Russell Sollitto (Sollitto or trial counsel). Specifically, Brennan asserted that he was deprived of his constitutional right to testify on his own behalf, that trial counsel failed to investigate and adequately prepare the case, and that his constitutional right to an impartial jury was violated. The applicant further argued that the postconviction court erred in denying a new trial based upon newly discovered evidence. Brennan next argued that the hearing justice erred in concluding that he lacked authority to

Page 171

correct an error of fact relating to his direct appeal. Finally, he contended that cumulative error that occurred at trial and on his direct appeal mandates a new trial. We deem these claims to be without merit.

The law in Rhode Island is well settled that this Court will pattern its evaluations of the ineffective assistance of counsel claims under the requirements of Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984). This Strickland Test, as adopted in Barboza v. State, 484 A.2d 881, 883 (R.I.1984), provides certain criteria that a complaining applicant must establish in order to show ineffective assistance of counsel. State v. Brennan, 627 A.2d 842, 844-45 (R.I.1993). The first prong of the test requires that applicant demonstrate that counsel's performance was deficient, to the point that the errors were so serious that trial counsel did not function at the level guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment. Id. at 845 (citing Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687, 104 S.Ct. at 2064, 80 L.Ed.2d at 693). Second, the applicant must show that such deficient performance was so prejudicial to the defense and the errors were so serious as to amount to a deprivation of the applicant's right to a fair trial. Id.

The first prong of the Strickland Test can be satisfied only by a showing that counsel's representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness. "In any case presenting an ineffectiveness claim, the performance inquiry must be whether counsel's assistance was reasonable considering all the circumstances." Strickland, 466 U.S. at 688, 104 S.Ct. at 2065, 80 L.Ed.2d at 694. The applicant's first argument in his ineffective assistance claim is that counsel refused to allow him to testify on his own behalf at trial. Brennan contends that he was unaware that the decision to testify...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP