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State v. Taylor

Superior Court of Delaware, New Castle

August 1, 2013

HENRY R. TAYLOR, JR., Defendant

Submitted: May 6, 2013

Henry R. Taylor, Jr., SBI 00, James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, Smyrna, Delaware.

Kathleen M. Jennings, Esquire, Delaware Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware.


Eric M. Davis Judge

1. On September 5, 1989, a jury found Henry R. Taylor, Jr. guilty of Burglary Second Degree. On November 27, 1989, the Court declared Mr. Taylor a habitual offender under 11 Del. C. § 4214(B) and sentenced him to the custody of the Department of Correction at Supervision Level V for life. The Supreme Court affirmed Mr. Taylor's conviction on May 17, 1991. Mr. Taylor has since filed three motions for postconviction relief which were denied or dismissed by this Court.

2. Before the Court is Mr. Taylor's fourth Motion for Postconviction Relief, which he initially filed on March 18, 2013. On March 22, 2013, Mr. Taylor requested leave to amend his Motion. The Court granted Mr. Taylor leave to amend his motion within 30 days on April 12, 2013. On April 11, 2013, Mr. Taylor filed: (i) a Motion to Expand the Record, and (ii) a Motion for Appointment of Counsel. The Court, by Order dated April 18, 2013, granted the Motion to Expand the Record and denied the Motion for Appointment of Counsel. The Court denied the Motion for Appointment of Counsel as:

Here, Mr. Taylor has not shown good cause why the Court should appoint counsel on his behalf. Moreover, there are no extraordinary circumstances present here which warrant appointment of counsel. As the voluminous record indicates, Mr. Taylor has had ample opportunity to raise any claims he may have had regarding his convictions and sentences. Moreover, though he may be unskilled at law, Mr. Taylor has filed pro se motions in Superior Court Rule 61.[1]

In essence, the Court denied this motion, in part, because Mr. Taylor had demonstrated his "pro se ability" to navigate the legal system through multiple postconviction relief filings.

3. Mr. Taylor filed an amended Motion for Postconviction Relief on April 18, 2013. Mr. Taylor amended his Motion a second time on May 6, 2013.

4. In his Second Amended Motion for Postconviction Relief, Mr. Taylor contends that his trial counsel's failure to object to the coercive police nature of testimonial evidence obtained from a co-defendant constitutes ineffective assistance of counsel. Mr. Taylor argues that the consequent admission of the co-defendant's testimony as evidence was a constitutional violation that gave rise to a colorable claim of a miscarriage of justice, fulfilling Rule 61's exception to procedural bars to review for postconviction relief. Additionally, Mr. Taylor contends that "the Prosecution withheld Brady material involving attorney error(s)."[2] Mr. Taylor argues that his claim of ineffective assistance of counsel cannot be procedurally barred, under Martinez v. Ryan, [3] because Mr. Taylor did not have counsel for his initial postconviction proceeding.

5. Superior Court Criminal Rule 61 governs motions for postconviction remedy. Before addressing the substantive merits of any claim for postconviction relief, the Court must determine whether the defendant has satisfied the procedural requirements of Superior Court Criminal Rule 61 ("Rule 61").[4] Rule 61(i) pertains to bars to relief. Under Rule 61(i)(1), "[a] motion for postconviction relief may not be filed more than one year after the judgment of conviction is final."[5] Under Rule 61(i)(2) any ground not asserted in a prior postconviction proceeding is barred "unless consideration of the claim is warranted in the interest of justice."[6]Under Rule 61(i)(3), "[a]ny ground for relief not asserted in the proceedings leading to judgment of conviction … is thereafter barred, unless the movant shows (A) cause for relief from the procedural default and (B) Prejudice from violation of the movant's rights."[7] A defect under Rule 61(i)(1), (2), or (3), will not bar a movant's "claim that the court lacked jurisdiction or . . . a colorable claim that there was a miscarriage of justice because of a constitutional violation that undermined the fundamental legality, reliability, integrity, or fairness of the proceedings leading to the judgment of conviction."[8] Finally, Under Rule 61(i)(4), any ground for relief that was formerly adjudicated in the proceedings leading to conviction, postconviction proceedings, or a habeas corpus proceeding "is thereafter barred unless reconsideration of the claim is warranted in the interests of justice."[9] "[T]he interest of justice has been narrowly defined to require that the movant show that the trial court lacked authority to convict or punish him."[10]

6. This Court addressed Mr. Taylor's asserted basis for ineffective assistance of counsel in its June 13, 1994 decision denying Mr. Taylor's first motion for postconviction relief. In that motion, Mr. Taylor argued there that his counsel's failure to object to the admission of a co-defendant's testimony as evidence constituted ineffective assistance of counsel because the testimony was coerced. Mr. Taylor claimed that the co-defendant's statement was coerced, motivated, and induced by the promise or expectation of a benefit, that benefit being entry into a drug rehabilitation program. After analyzing the relevant portion of the co-defendant's testimony, the Court concluded that Mr. Taylor's argument was unmeritorious. The Court determined that the co-defendant's statement was not coerced, motivated or induced because he brought up the subject of rehabilitation himself, and the interviewing officer gave him a noncommittal response. That being the case, counsel did not deviate from reasonable professional standards in not objecting to the admission of the statement, and Mr. Taylor could not show cause for relief from Rule 61(i)(3).

7. The Court also addressed Mr. Taylor's claim that portions of the co-defendant's statement that were not admitted at trial contained Brady material. The Court found that the claim was procedurally barred under Rule 61(i)(3) because he did not raise it prior to filing his motion.

8. Mr. Taylor also relies upon the United States Supreme Court's decision in Martinez v. Ryan.[11]Martinez sets forth that procedural default does not bar a federal habeas court from hearing claims for ineffective assistance of counsel where there was no counsel or there was ineffective counsel during an initial-review collateral proceeding.[12]The Court's holding did not establish or recognize a constitutional right; rather it is an "equitable ruling."[13]The Court specifically observed that a State may conclude no cause exists for a procedural default where the ineffective ...

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