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Bleau v. State

Superior Court of Rhode Island

June 9, 2016

CARLTON BLEAU
v.
STATE OF RHODE ISLAND

          For Plaintiff: Carlton Bleau, Pro Se

          For Defendant: Jeanine McConaghy, Esq.

          DECISION

          LANPHEAR, J.

         This case is before the Court on Petitioner Carlton Bleau's (Mr. Bleau) motion for postconviction relief. Jurisdiction is pursuant to G.L. 1956 § 10-9.1-2. For the reasons stated below, Mr. Bleau's application for postconviction relief is denied.

         I Facts and Travel

         The substantive facts of the instant case are set out fully in State v. Bleau, 668 A.2d 642 (R.I. 1995). Mr. Bleau is currently serving multiple sentences in connection with a 1993 conviction for first and second degree sexual assault and malicious destruction of property. Before the Court is Mr. Bleau's petition for postconviction relief alleging ineffective assistance of counsel. This is Mr. Bleau's third application for postconviction relief.

         At the hearing on his current petition for postconviction relief, Mr. Bleau called only one witness, Attorney Robert Craven (Attorney Craven). At the outset, this Court finds that Attorney Craven's testimony was both credible and consistent. Attorney Craven attempted to be accurate, precise and cooperative with Mr. Bleau and the State. However, he clarified that his recall of the case was limited because his representation of Mr. Bleau took place approximately sixteen years ago. Moreover, due to the length of time that has passed since he represented Mr. Bleau, Attorney Craven testified that he no longer retains Mr. Bleau's file. Based on testimony provided at the hearing, the Court makes the following findings of facts.

         Approximately two years after his conviction in 1993, Mr. Bleau learned that an FBI agent-Michael Malone (Agent Malone)-who testified for the prosecution at Mr. Bleau's trial, may have provided misleading and overstated testimony regarding whether hair and fabric samples taken from the crime scene were a match for samples taken from Mr. Bleau's head and the victim's jeans. See Bleau v. Wall, 808 A.2d 637, 640-41 (R.I. 2002). Thereafter, Mr. Bleau filed his first application for postconviction relief based on newly-discovered evidence. Id.

         Mr. Bleau was successfully represented by Attorney Craven at a hearing before a trial justice of the Rhode Island Superior Court in the case entitled Bleau v. Wall, PM No. 97-4545, which took place approximately sixteen years ago. Before representing Mr. Bleau, Attorney Craven had previously been employed as a prosecuting attorney in the Office of the Rhode Island Attorney General (Attorney General's Office), which is the same office that prosecuted Mr. Bleau. At the Attorney General's Office, Attorney Craven rose to the position of Assistant Chief of the Criminal Division (Assistant Chief). Pursuant to office protocol, a paralegal in the office routinely placed Attorney Craven's name on responses to discovery requests in cases which had not been arraigned and were awaiting permanent assignment at the Attorney General's Office. See Exs. 1 and 2. Thus, although Attorney Craven was not actively involved in Mr. Bleau's case, the office used his name as the responding attorney in documents which corresponded to Mr. Bleau's case.

         Eventually, Attorney Craven left the Attorney General's Office and entered private practice. Attorney Craven testified that it was his practice to inform new clients that he was a former prosecutor. Further, Attorney Craven testified that he informed Mr. Bleau that he was a former prosecutor at the start of his representation. He does not recall Mr. Bleau having objected to his representation. See Ex. 5. At the hearing before the Superior Court on Mr. Bleau's first application for postconviction relief, Attorney Craven represented Mr. Bleau and was successful in having Mr. Bleau's convictions set aside. Subsequently, the State appealed the trial justice's ruling to the Rhode Island Supreme Court. This Court notes that Attorney Craven did not represent Mr. Bleau on appeal. On appeal, the Rhode Island Supreme Court reversed the hearing justice's ruling. Bleau, 808 A.2d at 640-41. The Court determined that the hearing justice had committed an abuse of discretion when he failed to hold an evidentiary hearing before granting Mr. Bleau's application for postconviction relief. Id. Further, the Court concluded that the Department of Justice's reports lacked materiality and were merely cumulative and impeaching. Id. at 644. Thus, the Court held that Mr. Bleau was not entitled to postconviction relief. Id. at 644-45.

         In 2004, Mr. Bleau filed a second application for postconviction relief in which he alleged that 1) he was denied the right to a speedy and fair trial; 2) the trial justice erroneously refused to appoint a new attorney to represent him; and 3) he was denied effective assistance of counsel. Bleau v. State, 968 A.2d 276, 277 (R.I. 2009). At a hearing before the Superior Court, the trial justice denied the application in open court. Id. at 278. Thereafter, Mr. Bleau appealed to the Supreme Court. Id. The Supreme Court found that Mr. Bleau was barred from bringing the first two claims under the doctrine of res judicata and that he had no evidence to support his third claim. Id. at 278-79. Therefore, the Court denied Mr. Bleau's second application for postconviction relief. Id. at 279.

         Now, the matter before the Court is Mr. Bleau's third application for postconviction relief. Mr. Bleau's current application focuses not on the propriety of his original trial, but on the representation provided to Mr. Bleau by his publicly-financed, court-appointed counsel- Attorney Craven-during his first application for postconviction relief. In his current petition, Mr. Bleau alleges ineffective assistance of counsel by Attorney Craven. Specifically, Mr. Bleau contends that Attorney Craven had a conflict of interest due to his prior employment at the Attorney General's Office.

         II Standard of Review

         Sections 10-9.1-1 to 10-9.1-9 govern the statutory remedy of post-conviction relief, which is "available to any person who has been convicted of a crime in this state and who thereafter alleges either that the conviction violated his or her constitutional rights or that the existence of newly discovered material facts requires the vacation of the conviction in the interest of justice." Larngar v. Wall, 918 A.2d 850, 855 (R.I. 2007). "[A]n application for postconviction relief is civil in nature, " and the applicant has the burden of proving that "relief is warranted" by a ...


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