State Supreme Court says deportation ruling not retroactive
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A 35-year-old man who has lived in Connecticut since he was 14 faces deportation to Haiti after the state Supreme Court ruled his lawyer did not have to tell him that pleading guilty to a drug charge would likely get him thrown out of the United States.
The court on Monday overturned a lower court ruling that found Emmanuel Thiersaint was the victim of ineffective assistance of counsel.
Thiersaint pleaded guilty in 2007 to selling and possessing narcotics, and was ordered deported after being released from prison in 2008. His lawyers say he has no relatives in Haiti.
Thiersaint, in his appeal, argued that he was never informed that pleading guilty to an aggravated felony is almost automatic grounds for deportation of anyone who is not a U.S. citizen, once they complete their criminal sentence.
He had argued that a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that requires foreign defendants be informed by their attorney when deportation is a likely outcome of a conviction, should be applied retroactively.
But the court, in a 4-3 decision, ruled the notification was not something that was constitutionally required when Thiersaint was convicted.
It also did not address whether the failure to notify Thiersaint was in itself enough to warrant a new trial regardless of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, finding the issue was not properly raised in his appeals.
“We also observe that the state’s interest in fairness and due process protections must be balanced against the importance of the finality of convictions,” Justice Peter Zarrella wrote on behalf of the majority.
Thiersaint was asked by a judge prior to sentencing if he understood that a conviction could lead to deportation and replied that he did understand.