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Lacombe v. State

Supreme Court of Delaware

May 30, 2014

CLAUDE LACOMBE, Defendant Below, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF DELAWARE, Plaintiff Below, Appellee

Submitted: May 14, 2014.

Case Closed June 17, 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. Cr. I.D. No. 1201018188.

Before HOLLAND, BERGER and RIDGELY, Justices.

OPINION

Carolyn Berger, Justice.

ORDER

This 30th day of May 2014, on consideration of the briefs and arguments of the parties, it appears to the Court that:

1) Claude Lacombe appeals from the sentence imposed on him after pleading guilty to second degree murder, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, first degree attempted robbery and second degree conspiracy. The trial court sentenced Lacombe to natural life in prison for the murder.[1] His sole argument is that the life sentence violates the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution because it is grossly disproportional. We find no merit to this argument and affirm.

2) On December 26, 2012, Lacombe, his brother, Paul, Elijah Pressley and Christie Emmons participated in what they planned to be a robbery of two drug dealers. Lacombe and Emmons waited in Emmons' car while Paul and Pressley got into the victims' car. The victims apparently did not cooperate, and Paul shot and killed them. Lacombe and Paul agreed to plead guilty to reduced charges in lieu of trial. Paul pled guilty, but mentally ill, to one count of first degree murder. He was sentenced to life in prison. Lacombe pled guilty to one count of second degree murder and other related charges. The State recommended a 22 year sentence, but the trial court imposed a life sentence. The trial court noted that Claude was " a significant factor in the planning and determination of the events that transpired," [2] and that Lacombe's " role . . . [was] fairly equal in different respects to that of [his] brother . . . ." [3]

3) This Court's jurisdiction to review a criminal sentence is very limited. The trial court has broad discretion to impose any sentence that does not exceed the statutory limits set by the General Assembly. To disturb a sentence, there must be a showing of " unconstitutionality; factual predicates which are either false, impermissible or lack minimum indicia of reliability; judicial vindictiveness, bias, or sentencing with a 'closed mind; ' [or] any other illegality." [4] Lacombe argues only that the sentence constitutes cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment.

4) In Crosby v. State ,[5] this Court established a two-part test for determining whether a sentence violates the Eighth Amendment:

[T]his Court must undertake a threshold comparison of the crime committed and the sentence imposed. If such a comparison leads to an inference of gross disproportionality, then this Court must compare [the defendant's] sentence with other similar cases to determine ...

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