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State v. Davis

Superior Court of Delaware, New Castle

December 19, 2014

DAVID C. DAVIS, Defendant.

Upon Defendant's Motion for Postconviction Relief – SUMMARILY DISMISSED.



1. Instead of going to trial, then and there, on March 20, 2014, Defendant pleaded guilty to Arson in the third degree and Reckless Endangering in the first degree.

2. Before the court accepted his plea, Defendant assured the court that he was "in fact" guilty of putting clothes next to an occupied motel and setting them on fire. Defendant also assured the court orally and in writing that he was satisfied with counsel and his plea was voluntary.

3. The paperwork, which Defendant assured the court he had reviewed "line-by-line, " and the court, itself, told Defendant that he would be sentenced as a habitual offender for the reckless endangering and that "the court is not bound by the five-year [sentencing] guideline." Defendant was also told his sentence "could be as bad as life plus two years in prison . . . ." Furthermore, Defendant was told that once the plea was accepted, "it will be almost impossible for you to back out of it."

4. On June 6, 2014, the court, through another judge, sentenced Defendant to ten years in prison for the reckless endangering, under 11 Del. C. § 4214 (a).

5. Defendant did not file a direct appeal from his plea and sentence. Instead, on August 15, 2014, Defendant filed this motion for postconviction relief under Superior Court Criminal Rule 61.

6. On September 25, 2014, the motion was properly referred. [1] After preliminary review, [2] it appears from the record that Defendant is not entitled to relief, and the motion is subject to summary dismissal.[3]

7. Defendant makes three, brief and conclusory claims of ineffective assistance of counsel, two of which overlap. In the overlapping claims, Defendant reports unspecified "mental health issues." Defendant, however, makes no claim that those issues were untreated or interfered with his ability to decide whether to plead guilty or go to trial on March 22, 2014. Moreover, Defendant does not ask specifically that the court vacate the plea and return the case to the trial docket, which is the relief he would receive were his motion granted.

8. Defendant's third claim, in essence, is that his plea was not knowing and intelligent because he was "under the impression that he would receive [5] yrs. And his attorney allowed the state to impose sentence of [10] years." That claim, however, is flatly contradicted by the plea colloquy, as discussed above.

9. Finally, had Defendant established ineffectiveness, which he did not, he has not attempted to show prejudice.[4] When it accepted Defendant's plea, the court considered aloud Defendant's chances at trial. Counsel agreed that a trial that day probably would have left Defendant in an even worse predicament. That still appears to be accurate. Among other things, the State's evidence apparently included an incriminating video.

10. To the extent Defendant hopes his motion means a better plea and a reduced sentence, that is not the sort of relief contemplated by Superior Court Criminal Rule 61. To the extent Defendant now wants to go to trial, which the court doubts is so, Defendant's trial counsel's efforts left Defendant in a better position than a trial would, even if he is disappointed with the sentence he received. But, as discussed above, trial counsel was not ineffective, and Defendant's plea was knowing, voluntary and intelligent.[5]

For the foregoing reasons, after preliminary review, Defendant's August 15, 2014 motion for postconviction relief is SUMMARILY DISMISSED. The Prothonotary SHALL notify Defendant.


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