Submitted: July 10, 2013
Court Below: Superior Court of the State of Delaware, in and for New Castle County Cr. ID 0710019209
Upon appeal from the Superior Court.
Joseph M. Bernstein, Esquire (argued), Wilmington, Delaware; Of Counsel: Philip D. Lauer, Esquire, Lauer & Sletvold, P.C., Easton, Pennsylvania, for Appellant.
Josette D. Manning, Esquire (argued), Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware, for Appellee.
Before STEELE, Chief Justice, HOLLAND, BERGER, JACOBS, and RIDGELY, Justices, constituting the Court en Banc.
Ramazan Sahin, the defendant-below ("Sahin"), appeals from a Superior Court order denying his Superior Court Criminal Rule 61 motion for post-conviction relief. On appeal, Sahin claims that his trial defense attorney's comments to the trial judge, made before and during his bench trial, constituted ineffective assistance of counsel in violation of his Sixth Amendment right. Sahin further argues that defense counsel's comments created an objective appearance of judicial bias against him, thereby violating his right to a fair trial. We find no merit in these claims, and affirm.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
In May 2009, after a six-day bench trial, a Superior Court Judge convicted Sahin of nine counts of Rape in the First Degree, nine counts of Possession of a Deadly Weapon During the Commission of a Felony, and one count of Aggravated Menacing. Sahin's convictions arose out of charges that he raped eight women in 2007. At trial, seven of those eight women identified Sahin specifically as their assailant. Also, Sahin's DNA was found inside two of the women. Sahin's defense was that he admittedly raped an unknown number of women, but did not rape any of the eight female complainants in this case. The trial judge convicted Sahin and sentenced him to life plus 138 years in prison, followed by six months of probation. This Court affirmed on direct appeal. In its affirming opinion, this Court held that Strickland v. Washington—and not United States v. Cronic— governed Sahin's ineffective counsel claim which (we held), must be raised initially on a Rule 61 postconviction motion. Thereafter, Sahin filed this Rule 61 motion.
Before and during Sahin's bench trial, defense counsel made certain comments to the trial judge that form the basis for Sahin's Rule 61 motion. At a pretrial conference, Sahin's trial counsel told the court that, given the overwhelming evidence against his client, he had advised Sahin to accept the State's plea offer:
I also told [Sahin], however, that it was his choice [whether to accept the plea offer], and that I would support him either way, but I said that the offer that had been extended by the State in this case, I thought was a benevolent offer, relative to what I saw in the evidence that would be produced in this case . . . . [H]e wants to resolve this by way of making the State prove their case. I told him that was against my judgment under the circumstances. . . . [I]t is his choice to go forward with trial, contrary to my—my advice to him to do—to consider otherwise. I will support him in this, and I will defend him to the best of my ability, but the record should reflect that the potential consequences are such that it is not in his best interest to go forward, given what the State has offered to resolve this case, and I just wanted to make sure the record was clear on that.
Defense trial counsel also told the judge that, in his (counsel's) opinion, Sahin was not being truthful when requesting the assistance of an interpreter during ...