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West v. State

Supreme Court of Delaware

August 28, 2014

CHRISTOPHER WEST, Defendant Below, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF DELAWARE, Plaintiff Below, Appellee

Submitted June 18, 2014

Case Closed September 15, 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. ID No. 1107001026.

Before STRINE, Chief Justice, RIDGELY and VALIHURA, Justices.

ORDER

Henry duPont Ridgely, Justice

This 28th day of August 2014, upon careful consideration of the appellant's brief under Supreme Court Rule 26(c) (" Rule 26(c)" ), his attorney's motion to withdraw, and the State's response, it appears to the Court that:

(1) On August 15, 2011, the appellant, Christopher West, was indicted on two counts of Robbery in the First Degree, one count of Robbery in the Second Degree, and one count of Attempted Robbery in the First Degree. On January 9, 2012, West pleaded guilty to Robbery in the First Degree and Robbery in the Second Degree, and in return the State entered a nolle prosequi on the remaining counts in the indictment. Also, as part of the plea agreement, West agreed that he was eligible to be sentenced as a habitual offender under title 11, section 4214(a) of the Delaware Code.[1] On March 30, 2012, after a presentence investigation, the Superior Court declared West a habitual offender under section 4214(a) and sentenced him to a total of twenty-eight years at Level V suspended after twenty-five years for three years at Level IV suspended after six months for decreasing levels of supervision.

(2) On February 27, 2013, West filed a pro se motion for postconviction relief under Superior Court Criminal Rule 61 (" Rule 61" ). West alleged overlapping claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel, involuntary guilty plea, and coerced confession. Also, West alleged that his sentence under section 4214(a) was illegal. West's postconviction motion was referred to a Superior Court Commissioner, who appointed counsel to represent West and directed that counsel file an amended postconviction motion.

(3) On November 12, 2013, in lieu of an amended postconviction motion, West's counsel filed a motion to withdraw under Rule 61(e)(2).[2] Counsel represented that he had reviewed the record and determined that there were no claims for postconviction relief that he could " ethically advocate" on behalf of West.[3] West responded to his counsel's motion to withdraw, arguing that his involuntary guilty plea claim and illegal sentence claim " still have merit."

(4) On December 12, 2013, the Commissioner issued a report making findings of fact and conclusions of law on West's involuntary guilty plea and illegal sentence claims.[4] The Commissioner concluded that both claims were without merit and recommended that West's counsel should be granted leave to withdraw and that the postconviction motion should be denied.[5] By order dated January 7, 2014, the Superior Court adopted the Commissioner's report and recommendation. This appeal followed.

(5) Not surprisingly, on appeal, West's counsel has filed a brief and a motion to withdraw under Rule 26(c) asserting that there are no arguably appealable issues. West, through his counsel, has submitted several points for the Court's consideration. The State has responded to West's points and has moved to affirm the Superior Court judgment.

(6) When reviewing a motion to withdraw and an accompanying brief under Rule 26(c), the Court must be satisfied that the appellant's counsel has made a conscientious examination of the record and the law for arguable claims.[6] The Court must also conduct its own review of the record and determine whether the appeal is so totally devoid of at ...


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