Date Submitted: October 30, 2014
On Defendant's Motion for Post Conviction Relief.
Patrick J. Collins, Esq., Attorney for Defendant.
Scott D. Goodwin, Esq., Deputy Attorney General, Delaware Department of Justice, Carvel State Office Building, Attorney for the State.
CALVIN L. SCOTT, JR. JUDGE.
Before the Court is Defendant Solomon Collins' ("Defendant") Motion for Post Conviction Relief filed on September 16, 2013. The Court has reviewed the parties' submissions. For the following reasons, Defendant's Motion for Post Conviction Relief is DENIED.
Defendant was tried before a jury in March of 2011. Violet Gibson and Shakira Romeo – both eye witnesses to the offense – testified for the State at Defendant's trial. Both witnesses had also been interviewed by Detective Conner of the Wilmington Police Department after the incident. However, the statements the witnesses gave to Det. Conner conflicted with their in-court testimony. Det. Conner also testified for the State at Defendant's trial, and both witnesses' out-of-court statements to Det. Conner were admitted into evidence during his testimony, over defense objection.
The jury found Defendant guilty of Murder First Degree (non-capital), three counts of Reckless Endangering First Degree, two counts of Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony (PFDCF), and one count of Possession of a Deadly Weapon by a Person Prohibited (PDWBPP) relating to the shooting death of Tommear Tinnin. On July 15, 2011, Defendant was sentenced to life in prison at Level 5 on the Murder First Degree conviction and ten years in prison at Level 5 on the weapons conviction and six years in prison at Level 5 on the Reckless Endangering convictions.
On July 29, 2011, Defendant filed a direct appeal of his convictions with the Delaware Supreme Court. The Delaware Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's convictions and sentence on direct appeal.
On September 16, 2013, Defendant filed his first Motion for Post Conviction Relief. On September 18, 2013, the Superior Court directed the Office of Conflict Counsel to appoint counsel for Defendant for purposes of representation in his Rule 61 Motion for Post Conviction Relief.
As an initial matter, the Court finds that Defendant's motion is not procedurally barred under Del. Super. Ct. Crim. R. 61(i). The Court will now address the merits of Defendant's motion. To prevail on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, a defendant must meet the two-pronged test established by the United States Supreme Court in Strickland v. Washington. Under Strickland, a defendant must show that (1) his counsel's representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness, and (2) that the deficient performance prejudiced the defense. Counsel's actions are afforded a strong presumption of reasonableness because it is "all too easy for a court examining counsel's defense after it has proved unsuccessful" to succumb to the "distorting effects of hindsight." The first prong of Strickland therefore requires the use of an objective standard of reasonableness based on prevailing professional norms when evaluating an attorney's conduct. "[T]he mere fact that counsel failed to recognize the factual or legal basis for a claim, or failed to raise the claim despite recognizing it does not constitute" deficient performance. The United States Supreme Court has stated that "'the purpose of the effective assistance guarantee of the Sixth Amendment is not to improve the quality of legal representation …. [but] simply to ensure that criminal defendants receive a fair trial.'" Based on that policy, "[t]he benchmark for judging any claim of ineffectiveness must be whether counsel's conduct so undermined the proper ...