State v. Martin

Decision Date12 August 1986
Citation201 Conn. 74,513 A.2d 116
PartiesSTATE of Connecticut v. Kevin MARTIN.
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court

Jon C. Blue, Asst. Public Defender, with whom, on brief, was Joette Katz, Public Defender, for appellant (defendant).

Roland D. Fasano, Asst. State's Atty., with whom, on brief, was Arnold Markle, State's Atty., for appellee (State).



The defendant, Kevin Martin, was found guilty by a jury of robbery in the first degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-134(a)(4). 1 He was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of ten years, execution suspended after five years. The defendant appeals from the judgment of conviction, claiming that the trial court erred: (1) in summarily denying the defense counsel's motion to withdraw and his motion for mistrial based on counsel's alleged conflict of interest; and (2) in denying the defendant the right to cross-examine the complaining witness as to prior acts of misconduct. The defendant also claims that he was denied effective assistance of counsel. We find error and remand for a new trial.

The jury could reasonably have found the following facts. In the early morning hours of September 20, 1983, the victim, Solomon Reid, entered the R & F Big Time Restaurant in New Haven. While there, the victim conversed with two of his friends, the defendant and Johnnie Clark. The victim had grown up with Clark and had known the defendant since the previous summer. About twenty minutes after he had arrived, the victim left the restaurant to go to his girlfriend's house. As he walked down the street, he was stopped by the defendant and Clark. Clark grabbed him from behind and the defendant stepped in front of him. The two men then pulled the victim into a nearby garage. While inside the garage, Clark said to the victim: "Give it up. I won't hurt you." The victim took approximately $150 out of his pocket and handed it to the defendant. Clark and the defendant then left.

At trial, there was conflicting testimony as to whether the defendant and Clark were armed during the robbery. The victim testified that both the defendant and Clark displayed firearms. Clark, on the other hand, also testifying for the state, said that, although he had threatened the victim with the use of a firearm, neither he nor the defendant displayed or even had a firearm in their possession.

After the robbery, the victim returned to the restaurant and told the manager about the incident. After the manager drove the victim home, the victim called the police. Thereafter, the victim returned to the restaurant where he met an officer of the New Haven police department. The police officer drove him by the defendant's house and then to the police station, where he viewed a tray of photographs and identified Clark and the defendant as his assailants. Subsequently, the defendant was arrested and charged with robbery in the first degree.


The defendant's first claim of error is that his sixth amendment right to effective assistance of counsel was violated by the trial court's summary denial of his defense counsel's motion to withdraw because of a conflict of interest. 2

For the purpose of discussing this issue, we first must explain the procedural context from which this claim arose. During the direct examination of the state's final witness, Johnnie Clark, the state asked Clark why he was going to rob the victim, to which Clark responded, "Because of what Fred Dennison did." The defendant's attorney immediately moved to withdraw and for a mistrial indicating that he would state his reason outside the presence of the jury. Once the jury had been excused, the defendant's attorney stated: "Your Honor, I move for a mistrial at this time because Fred Dennison is a client of mine and I now have a conflict of interest." The trial court summarily denied the motion. The defendant's attorney attempted to state for the record the grounds for the motion, only to be interrupted by the trial court. 3 The defendant argues that the trial court's refusal to inquire into the details of the claimed conflict of interest violated the defendant's constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel. We agree.

The sixth amendment to the United States constitution as applied to the states through the fourteenth amendment, and article first, § 8, of the Connecticut constitution, guarantees to a criminal defendant the right to effective assistance of counsel. Powell v. Alabama, 287 U.S. 45, 69, 53 S.Ct. 55, 64, 77 L.Ed. 158 (1932); Festo v. Luckart, 191 Conn. 622, 626, 469 A.2d 1181 (1983). " 'Where a constitutional right to counsel exists, our Sixth Amendment cases hold that there is a correlative right to representation that is free from conflicts of interest.' Wood v. Georgia, 450 U.S. 261, 271, 101 S.Ct. 1097, 1103, 67 L.Ed.2d 220 (1981)." Festo v. Luckart, supra, 191 Conn. 626-27, 469 A.2d 1181. This right requires that the assistance of counsel be "untrammeled and unimpaired by a court order requiring that one lawyer shall simultaneously represent conflicting interests." Glasser v. United States, 315 U.S. 60, 70, 62 S.Ct. 457, 465, 86 L.Ed. 680 (1942); State v. Marion, 175 Conn. 211, 216, 397 A.2d 533 (1978). Moreover, one of the principle safeguards of this right is the rule announced by this court that "[a trial] court must explore the possibility of conflict ... when it knows or reasonably should know of a conflict...." (Emphasis added.) Festo v. Luckart, supra, 191 Conn. 629, 469 A.2d 1181.

The two leading cases on the trial court's duty to inquire into possible conflicts of interest, Holloway v. Arkansas, 435 U.S. 475, 98 S.Ct. 1173, 55 L.Ed.2d 426 (1978), and Cuyler v. Sullivan, 446 U.S. 335, 100 S.Ct. 1708, 64 L.Ed.2d 333 (1980), both involved multiple representation of criminal codefendants. In Holloway v. Arkansas, supra, the United States Supreme Court held that a trial court's failure to investigate defense counsel's timely assertion of a conflict of interest violated the accused's sixth amendment right to effective assistance of counsel. The defendant in Holloway was one of three codefendants represented by the same attorney. A month before trial and again during trial, the defendant filed a motion for the appointment of separate counsel. The defendant alleged the existence of a conflict of interest due to the fact that each defendant intended to testify and possibly implicate the others, thus inhibiting full cross-examination. The trial judge summarily denied the motion and the Arkansas Supreme Court affirmed. The United States Supreme Court reversed, stating that a constitutional violation occurs if the trial court fails either to grant a defendant's request for separate counsel or, in the alternative, "to take adequate steps to ascertain whether the risk [is] too remote to warrant separate counsel." Holloway v. Arkansas, supra, 435 U.S. 484, 98 S.Ct. at 1178. Thus, the trial court's failure to investigate defense counsel's timely allegation of a conflict of interest constituted a violation of the defendant's sixth amendment right. Id. In Cuyler v. Sullivan, supra, 446 U.S. 347, 100 S.Ct. at 1717, the court held that a trial court is under no obligation to initiate inquiry "[u]nless [it] knows or reasonably should know that a particular conflict exists...." See Festo v. Luckart, supra, 191 Conn. 628, 469 A.2d 1181. However, the court reaffirmed that under Holloway, "a defendant who objects to multiple representation must have the opportunity to show that potential conflicts impermissibly imperil his right to a fair trial." Cuyler v. Sullivan, supra, 446 U.S. 348, 100 S.Ct. at 1718. In Cuyler, the court also noted that defense counsel has "an ethical obligation to avoid conflicting representations" and must immediately advise the court when a conflict of interest arises during the course of, as well as prior to, trial. Id., 346, 100 S.Ct. at 1717.

Although the United States Supreme Court has only addressed this conflict of interest issue in cases involving multiple representation of criminal codefendants, the defendant in the present case is entitled to no less constitutional protection. See State v. Gonsalves, 476 A.2d 108, 113 (R.I.1984).

"These principles concerning conflict of interest [announced by the court in Holloway and Cuyler ] are not restricted to cases of joint representation of [criminal] co-defendants at a single trial. See, e.g., Wood v. Georgia, [supra] (potential conflict between defendants' interest and the interest of their employer who paid [for] trial counsel)." United States v. Winkle, 722 F.2d 605, 610 (10th Cir.1983) (conflict because defendant's attorney had previously represented the government's key witness); 4 see also Ross v. Heyne, 638 F.2d 979 (7th Cir.1980) (conflict of interest arising from a trial in which one attorney represented the defendant while his law partner represented codefendants who testified for the prosecution); Matter of Darr, 143 Cal.App.3d 500, 191 Cal.Rptr. 882 (1983) (conflict arising out of defense counsel's concurrent representation of defendant and key prosecution witness); State v. Gonsalves, supra (conflict because defense counsel previously represented the individual who had actually committed the crime for which the defendant was being tried). As the court states in Darr, "[i]t is not representation of more than one client which deprives a defendant of his constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel, it is representation of clients with adverse interests." Matter of Darr, supra, 143 Cal.App.3d 509, 191 Cal.Rptr. 882. LaFave and Israel point out that "[t]he Wood [v. Georgia, supra] citation of [Cuyler v. Sullivan, supra,] also is significant because it indicates that the constitutional duty to conduct an inquiry will not be limited to conflicts presented by multiple representation of...

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