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State v. Manley

Superior Court of Delaware, New Castle

May 29, 2014

STATE OF DELAWARE
v.
MICHAEL R. MANLEY, Defendant.

Submitted: January 14, 2014

Upon Consideration of the Defendant's Motion for Postconviction Relief Pursuant to Superior Court Criminal Rule 61 DENIED

Gregory E. Smith, Esq., Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware. Attorney for the State.

Christopher D. Tease, Esq., Wilmington, Delaware. Attorney for Defendant.

OPINION

VAUGHN, President Judge.

After a joint Superior Court trial, a jury found Michael Manley ("Manley") and David Stevenson ("Stevenson") guilty of First Degree Murder and related charges. At the penalty phase, the Superior Court followed the jury's recommendations and sentenced both defendants to death.[1] Both of the defendants' sentences were affirmed on direct appeal.[2] On November 2, 1998, the United States Supreme Court denied certiorari.[3]

On January 25, 1999, Manley filed a Motion for Postconviction Relief pursuant to Superior Court Rule 61, which this Court denied.[4] On February 8, 1999, Stevenson filed a Motion for Postconviction Relief pursuant to Superior Court Rule 61, which this Court denied.[5] On appeal, however, the Delaware Supreme Court vacated both defendants' death sentences and ordered a new penalty hearing.[6] The Delaware Supreme Court ordered that the new penalty hearing be held before a Superior Court Judge different from the judge who presided over the trial and first penalty hearing. This second judge was also to re-consider the defendants' Motions for Postconviction Relief and any amendments thereto.

On September 7, 2001, Manley filed an Amended Motion for Postconviction Relief before the new Superior Court Judge. On March 26, 2003, Manley also filed a Motion to Preclude a New Penalty Hearing. On October 2, 2003, this Court denied both defendant s' Motions for Postconviction Relief and Manley's Motion to Preclude a New Penalty Hearing.[7] The Delaware Supreme Court affirmed these rulings on October 18, 2004.[8]

On December 6, 2005, after a new penalty hearing was held, the jury recommended death for both defendants. On February 3, 2006, this Court sentenced both defendants to death. On January 3, 2007, the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed both defendants' death sentences.[9] On May 29, 2008, the United States Supreme Court denied certiorari.[10]

This is Manley's second Motion for Postconviction Relief, originally filed on January 25, 2008.

FACTS

The following facts are set forth by the Delaware Supreme Court in its 2007 opinion:

In 1994, Stevenson was employed by Macy's Department Store in the Christiana Mall. While employed at Macy's, Stevenson used customers' credit card information to issue false gift certificates. Macy's security department employees, Parminder Chona ("Chona") and Kristopher Heath ("Heath"), investigated the matter. Stevenson was subsequently charged with theft and the matter was scheduled for trial in the Superior Court.
On the evening prior to Stevenson's scheduled court date, a black male wearing a long puffy black jacket knocked on the door to Heath's residence. His fianceé, Deborah Dorsey, answered. Dorsey informed the male that Heath was not home and the individual departed. Dorsey called Heath to tell him about the incident and that she was frightened. She also noted that the individual was not Stevenson, as she would have recognized him from her employment at Macy's.
On the morning of November 13, 1995, Heath was murdered in the parking lot of his residence at the Cavalier Country Club Apartments. Heath was shot in the back five times with a nine-millimeter handgun. The murder occurred on the same morning that Heath was to testify against Stevenson at his criminal trial. Upon hearing the gunfire, several residents at the apartment complex called police.
One resident, Lance Thompson, informed the police that he observed a black male run to and enter a mid-sized blue vehicle with faded and peeling paint. Thompson saw the license plate number and gave it to police. At this time, Patrolman Daniel Meadows of the New Castle County Police broadcasted the license plate number and vehicle description over the police radio. It was soon discovered that the license plate was registered to Stevenson and his mother at 206 West 20th Street in Wilmington, Delaware.
Wilmington Police arrived in two squad cars at 206 W. 20th Street. The officers saw a car fitting the description given by Meadows arrive at the same time with two black men inside. The passengers started to exit the vehicle but reentered after observing the approaching officers. The suspects drove away with patrol cars in pursuit. After a short chase, the suspects fled on foot and were taken into custody.
The occupants of the vehicle were Manley and Stevenson. Manley matched the description of the shooter given by eyewitnesses. After Stevenson was apprehended and brought to police headquarters, police searched the patrol car used to transport him. On the floor was a slip of paper with the name, address and phone number of Chona, the other Macy's employee who investigated Stevenson for the theft along with Heath.

MANLEY'S CONTENTIONS

Manley has filed a motion, amended motion, and a second amended motion. In his motion as amended, Manley raises the following grounds for relief:

____Ground One: as a result of trial counsel's ineffectiveness and prosecutorial misconduct in the 1996 trial, readily available evidence demonstrating the defendant's innocence was not presented to the jury, which violated the defendant's constitutional rights; the prosecution's forensic expert, William Kinard, presented incomplete and unreliable evidence that counsel failed to properly dispute; counsel failed to develop and present evidence that challenged the prosecution's witnesses Susan Butler, Phillip Hudson, and Debra Dorsey, all of whom connected the defendant to the murder; counsel failed to develop and present available evidence to dispute the prosecution's contention that the defendant's reserve status made him more likely to have committed the murder; counsel failed to develop and present available evidence to dispute the prosecution's theory that the defendant was the shooter; counsel failed to hire an identification expert who could have disputed the prosecution's witnesses whom identified the defendant as the shooter; counsel failed to challenge the admission of Melissa Megalong's irrelevant and speculative testimony, which was that on the night before the murder, Ms. Megalong heard a knock at the door and two male voices; counsel failed to elicit testimony that the defendant was not present during a conversation between Kevin Powlette and Stevenson concerning Stevenson wanting to purchase a gun; and the defendant was prejudiced by counsel's errors because had the aforementioned evidence been presented, there is a reasonable probability that the verdict would have been different.

_____Ground Two: counsel was ineffective in the 2005 penalty phase for failing to investigate, develop, and present available evidence disputing aggravation in violation of the defendant's constitutional rights; counsel failed to properly dispute the incomplete and unreliable prior testimony of forensic expert William Kinard; counsel elicited harmful and false testimony regarding the camouflage jacket and failed to develop and present available evidence to dispute the contention that the jacket belonged to the defendant; counsel failed to develop and present available evidence to dispute the prosecution's contention that the defendant's reserve status made him more likely to have committed the murder; counsel failed to challenge the harmful and materially misleading prior testimony of Phillip Hudson, whom identified the defendant; counsel failed to develop and present evidence that challenged the prosecutions witnesses Susan Butler, Phillip Hudson, and Debra Dorsey, all of whom connected the defendant to the murder; counsel failed to develop and present available evidence to dispute the prosecution's theory that the defendant was the shooter; counsel failed to hire an identification expert who could have disputed the prosecution's witnesses whom identified the defendant as the shooter; and the aforementioned errors, individually and cumulatively, provide a compelling basis for doubting the reliability of the sentencing verdict.

Ground Three: the prosecution failed to disclose exculpatory impeachment evidence in its possession during both the 1996 trial and 2005 penalty phase, which violated the defendant's constitutional rights; and counsel was ineffective during both the 1996 trial and 2005 penalty phase for failing to request material impeachment evidence after prosecution witnesses testified on direct examination.

Ground Four: counsel was ineffective during the 2005 penalty phase for failing to investigate, develop, and present readily available evidence regarding the defendant's background and history; the substance of the testimony that counsel elicited involved little more than general descriptions of the defendant's devotion to his family, the absence of his father, his academic accomplishments, his employment and desire to work, and his kindness to others; counsel presented no expert witnesses; during closing arguments, counsel failed to direct the jury's focus towards mitigation considerations; and had these errors not occurred, there is a reasonable probability that the capital sentencer would have returned a life verdict.

Ground Five: as a result of counsel's ineffectiveness and prosecutorial misconduct during the 2005 penalty phase, prior testimony and other hearsay statements were admitted in violation of the defendant's constitutional rights; the prosecution admitted the prior testimony of at least eight witnesses, all of whom were claimed to be unavailable; counsel was deficient for failing to inquire into the unavailability of the witnesses; the prosecution presented materially misleading and/or false information in proffers to the Court regarding witness unavailability; the prosecution failed to meet its burden for admission under Rule 804 of the Delaware Rules of Evidence; and counsel was ineffective for failing to litigate these issues.

Ground Six: the defendant's 2005 penalty phase was improperly joined with Stevenson in violation of the defendant's ...


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