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Bunting v. State

Supreme Court of Delaware

May 5, 2015

SHAWN BUNTING, Defendant Below-Appellant,
v.
STATE OF DELAWARE, Plaintiff Below-Appellee

Submitted: March 20, 2015.

Case Closed May 21, 2015.

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 0407024013.

Before HOLLAND, VALIHURA, and VAUGHN, Justices.

ORDER

Karen L. Valihura, Justice.

This 5th day of May 2015, upon consideration of the parties' briefs, their supplemental memoranda, and the record on appeal, it appears to the Court that:

(1) The appellant, Shawn Bunting (" Bunting" ), filed this appeal from the Superior Court's summary dismissal of his third motion for postconviction relief. The case was scheduled to be considered by the Court on the basis of the briefs on October 31, 2014. On October 22, however, the Court stayed the appeal pending the outcome of another appeal, Brown v. State, No. 178, 2014. The Court issued its opinion in Brown on January 23, 2015.[1] The parties were directed to file supplemental memoranda addressing the applicability of Brown to Bunting's case. After careful consideration of the parties' briefs and supplemental memoranda, we find no merit to the appeal. Accordingly, we affirm the Superior Court's judgment.

(2) The record reflects that, in February 2005, a Superior Court jury found Bunting guilty of multiple drug-related offenses.[2] The Superior Court sentenced Bunting as a habitual offender to life imprisonment. This Court affirmed the Superior Court's judgment on direct appeal.[3] Thereafter, Bunting filed two unsuccessful motions for postconviction relief under Superior Court Criminal Rule 61 (" Rule 61" ),[4] as well as a federal petition for habeas corpus, which was dismissed as untimely by the District Court.[5]

(3) On January 7, 2014, Bunting filed his third motion for postconviction relief, claiming that his counsel was ineffective for failing to conduct a meaningful investigation, for failing to challenge the habitual offender statute, and for failing to raise an Equal Protection claim based on the State's selective prosecution of eligible offenders under the habitual offender statute. Bunting also filed a motion for appointment of counsel based on the United States Supreme Court's decision in Martinez v. Ryan [6] and recent amendments to Rule 61(e)(1).[7] A Superior Court Commissioner recommended summary dismissal of Bunting's third postconviction motion on the grounds that his ineffective assistance of counsel claims were procedurally barred under Rule 61(i)(1),[8] 61(i)(2),[9] and 61(i)(4),[10] and Bunting had failed to plead a colorable claim of a miscarriage of justice under Rule 61(i)(5).[11] The Commissioner also recommended denial of Bunting's motion for appointment of counsel after concluding that Bunting was not entitled to counsel under Martinez and had not established good cause for appointment of counsel under Rule 61(e)(1). After de novo review, the Superior Court adopted the Commissioner's recommendations, denied Bunting's motion for appointment of counsel, and summarily dismissed Bunting's third motion for postconviction relief.[12] This appeal followed.

(4) Bunting essentially raises three arguments on appeal. First, he contends that he was entitled, under Martinez, to the appointment of counsel to assist him in pursuing his third postconviction motion. Second, he contends that a recent investigation into misconduct at the Office of the Medical Examiner calls into question the legitimacy of the chain of custody and forensic testing of the drug evidence in his case. Finally, he contends that the Superior Court abused its discretion in dismissing his third motion for postconviction relief as procedurally barred. This Court reviews the Superior Court's denial of postconviction relief for abuse of discretion and questions of law de novo.[13] The procedural requirements of Rule 61(i) must be considered before any substantive issues are addressed.[14]

(5) Bunting's first claim on appeal is that the Superior Court abused its discretion in denying his motion for appointment of counsel because he was entitled to appointment of counsel under Martinez. Bunting also appears to argue that he should be permitted to re-litigate his earlier postconviction motions with appointed counsel because he lacked counsel at the time of those motions. Neither contention has any merit. Contrary to Bunting's contention, Martinez simply does not stand for the proposition that an indigent defendant has a constitutional right to counsel in a first postconviction proceeding or in any subsequent postconviction proceeding. Moreover, this Court previously has rejected the argument that a defendant who proceeded without counsel in a first postconviction proceeding is entitled under Martinez to " re-do" his first postconviction proceeding with appointed counsel.[15] Because his arguments find no support in the law, we reject Bunting's contentions on appeal.

(6) Bunting next claims that he was convicted based on testimony and evidence offered by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (" OCME" ), which has been the subject of a recent investigation by the Attorney General. He suggests that the recent investigation calls into question the chain of custody of the drug evidence in his case. In this appeal, the State disclosed in a letter dated June 6, 2014 that a person in the chain of custody for the drug evidence had been indicted on charges arising from the Attorney ...


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