Submitted: December 11, 2013
Upon the State's Motion to Declare Defendant as a Habitual Offender.
Marie O'Connor Graham, Esquire, Department of Justice, Dover, Delaware; attorney for the State of Delaware.
Paul S. Swierzbinski, Esquire, Office of the Public Defender, Dover, Delaware; attorney for Defendant.
William L. Witham, Jr. Resident Judge
Whether Defendant's prior convictions qualify him for habitual criminal status pursuant to 11 Del. C. § 4214(a).
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
On or about November 4, 2013 Defendant Grady Harrell (hereinafter "Defendant") pleaded guilty to one count of Possession of Firearm Ammunition by a Person Prohibited. On December 3, 2013 the State filed its Motion to Declare a Habitual Offender pursuant to 11 Del. C. § 4214(a). In the Motion, the State lists four separate convictions, three of which are out-of-state convictions from Florida: (1) a Florida conviction for Robbery Using Deadly Weapon or Firearm on January 6, 1999; (2) a Florida conviction for Robbery Using Deadly Weapon or Firearm and Felony Causing Bodily Injury, also dated January 6, 1999; (3) a Florida conviction for Felony Battery on April 21, 2003; and (4) a Delaware conviction for Assault in the Second Degree on October 9, 2007.
In support of its Motion, the State has provided the Court with certified court conviction records from the State of Florida for each of the three Florida convictions. These records indicate that Defendant pleaded guilty to each of the offenses for which he was convicted. The Florida conviction records do not contain any description whatsoever of the underlying conduct leading to each conviction, nor do they contain any text or details of the guilty pleas for each conviction. The records for each Florida conviction includes documents containing what are purported to be Defendant's fingerprints. These documents also contain a line on whi ch Defendan t's social security number is supposed to be filled in; however, the line is left blank for each of the three Florida convictions. As to the 2007 Delaware conviction, the State has provided the Court with a certified copy of the criminal docket in that case, which indicates that Defendant pleaded guilty to Assault in the Second Degree and the State nolle prossed the other charges. Each side has had the opportunity to make submissions concerning this matter as noted below.
The Court heard oral arguments on the State's Motion on December 11, 2013. The State acknowledged that the two 1999 Florida convictions, which were on the same date, counted as a single conviction for the purposes of declaring a habitual offender. The 2007 Delaware conviction was not discussed. It was brought to the Court's attention that while Defendant admitted to the presentence officer that Defendant had committed the robberies for which he was convicted in 1999, Defendant denied ever having committed the battery for which he was convicted in 2003. Defendant also argued that under the Delaware Supreme Court's holding in Morales v. State,  the State was required to provide copies of the indictments for each of the Florida convictions as well as transcripts for the entry of each guilty plea leading to the Florida convictions. Finally, the State informed the Court that its fingerprint analyst could not verify that the fingerprints contained in the Florida conviction records were in fact Defendant's. The Court reserved decision on the Motion.
Following oral arguments, Defendant filed a letter with the Court dated December 11, 2013 in which Defendant argued that based on the State's concession that the fingerprints in the Florida conviction record could not be verified, the State had conceded that Defendant could not be declared habitual. Defendant contended that based on this concession, the Motion to Declare a Habitual Offender was no longer before the Court.
The State responded to these arguments in its own letter to the Court dated December 18, 2013. The State refuted Defendant's assertions that the State had conceded the Motion, and argued that verified fingerprints were not required in order to declare a defendant a habitual criminal. The State further argued that even though Defendant denied the 2003 Florida conviction, the certified conviction records provided enough information for the Court to decide the Motion. The State also argued that ...