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Mirabal v. State

Supreme Court of Delaware

March 11, 2014

JOSHUA MIRABAL, Defendant Below-Appellant,
v.
STATE OF DELAWARE, Plaintiff Below-Appellee

Submitted December 11, 2013.

Case Closed March 27, 2014.

Editorial Note:

This decision has been designated as "Table of Decisions Without Published Opinions." in the Atlantic Reporter.

Court Below: Superior Court of the State of Delaware in and for New Castle County. No. 1112000595.

Before HOLLAND, BERGER, JACOBS, and RIDGELY, Justices and GLASSCOCK, Vice Chancellor,[*] constituting the Court en Banc.

OPINION

Henry duPont Ridgely, Justice.

ORDER

On this 11th day of March 2014, it appears to the Court that:

(1) Defendant-Below/Appellant Joshua Mirabal appeals from a jury conviction in the Superior Court of Aggravated Possession, Criminal Impersonation, and Possession of Marijuana. In his single claim on appeal, Mirabal contends that he received ineffective assistance of counsel under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The record shows that Mirabal's trial counsel held divided loyalties to a potentially adverse witness that affected trial counsel's performance and denied Mirabal his Sixth Amendment right to the effective assistance of counsel. Accordingly, we reverse Mirabal's conviction and remand this case for a new trial.

(2) In December 2011, the Delaware River and Bay Authority Police Department pulled over a red Chevrolet Cavalier for traffic violations. The occupants included the driver, Rebecca Stafford, and two passengers, Mirabal and Bethany Santana. After requesting Stafford's license, registration, and proof of insurance, the officer requested identification from Mirabal and Santana. Mirabal provided the officer with the name Jose Zakeem Ramos. After checking the names, the officer suspected that Mirabal had provided a fake name. When asked about the name, Mirabal explained that he provided a false name because he thought there was a warrant out for his arrest. The officer ordered Mirabal to wait in the back of his squad car.

(3) Another officer then conducted a consent search of the Cavalier. Inside a woman's jacket within the vehicle, officers found a plastic bag filled with cocaine. Yelling from the back of the squad car, Mirabal confessed to possessing the drugs. All of the occupants in the Cavalier were taken into custody for further questioning. After a search incident to an arrest, officers also found marijuana in Mirabal's sock.

(4) Mirabal was charged with Aggravated Possession, Criminal Impersonation, and Possession of Marijuana. Before Mirabal's trial, the Public Defender had represented Stafford on a charge arising from the same incident. Stafford was charged with Hindering Prosecution in violation of 11 Del . C. § 1244(c). She pleaded guilty on June 4, 2012 and was fined $200.

(5) Mirabal's trial began on October 11, 2012. Mirabal was also represented by an attorney from the Public Defender's Office (" trial counsel" ), who was appointed to represent Mirabal on July 30, 2012. At trial, Mirabal sought to testify on his own behalf and to comment on prior admissions made by Stafford. Stafford had made statements in an affidavit that exculpated Mirabal. But Stafford later claimed that those statements were involuntary because Stafford was coerced by Mirabal into making the statements. If her admissions were to be introduced into evidence, the Prosecution intended to call her as a rebuttal witness. The Prosecutor alerted trial counsel about this potential conflict of interest. In addition, the Public Defender's Office held internal discussions concluding that there was a conflict of interest due to the prior representation of Stafford. But the parties agreed that there would be no conflict if Mirabal waived it. Mirabal declined ...


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