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State v. Sinclair

Superior Court of Delaware

January 10, 2017

STATE OF DELAWARE, Plaintiff,
v.
RYAN D. SINCLAIR, Defendant.

          Submitted: December 12, 2016

          James J. Kriner, Esquire, Deputy Attorney General, Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware, Attorney for the State.

          Ryan D. Sinclair, James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, Smyrna, Delaware, pro se.

          COMMISSIONER'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION THAT DEFENDANT'S THIRD MOTION FOR POSTCONVICTION RELIEF SHOULD BE SUMMARILY DISMISSED.

          Lynne M. Parker, Commissioner

          This 10th day of January 2017, upon consideration of Defendant's Third Motion for Postconviction Relief, it appears to the Court that:

         BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         1. On October 16, 2007, Defendant Ryan D. Sinclair pled guilty to the charges of Murder in the Second Degree (a lesser included offense of first degree murder), and Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony ("PFDCF"). As part of the plea agreement, the parties agreed to jointly recommend a sentence of 20 years at Level V.[1]

         2. On February 1, 2008, Defendant was sentenced to 20 years of unsuspended Level V time, followed by decreasing levels of probation.

         3. Defendant did not file a direct appeal to the Delaware Supreme Court.

         4. On May 20, 2008, Defendant filed a motion for modification of sentence.[2] In that motion, Defendant made no representation that he felt he was not competent to enter into his plea, that his counsel was ineffective, or that he was not guilty of the crimes to which he pled guilty. By Letter Order dated July 24, 2008, the Superior Court denied Defendant's motion for modification of sentence.[3] The court, in denying the motion, advised Defendant that it had considered Defendant's lack of a prior criminal record as well as his mental health issues when sentencing Defendant.[4]

         5. Over four years after his sentencing, on May 18, 2012, Defendant filed his first Rule 61 motion for postconviction relief.[5] In that motion, Defendant contended that he was not mentally competent to enter into his plea, that his counsel provided ineffective assistance, that counsel was ineffective in failing to pursue an Extreme Emotional Distress defense because the victim was beating him with a deadly weapon, and that the State falsely prosecuted him because the murder was not his fault.[6]

         6. On June 12, 2012, a Superior Court Commissioner issued his Report and Recommendation recommending that the Rule 61 postconviction motion be denied.[7] The Commissioner recommended that Defendant's Rule 61 motion be dismissed since it was procedurally barred on the grounds that it was untimely and that Defendant's claims should have been raised in prior proceedings and/or were otherwise procedurally barred.[8]

         7. The Commissioner further noted that the record reflected that Defendant had entered into his plea knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily.[9]

         8. By Order dated July 31, 2012, the Superior Court adopted the Commissioner's Report and Recommendation and denied Defendant's Rule 61 postconviction motion.[10]

         9. On January 14, 2013, Defendant filed another motion for modification of sentence.[11] In that motion, Defendant again raised his Extreme Emotional Distress defense, that he was mentally ill, and that he should have been convicted of manslaughter not murder in the second degree.[12] By Order dated April 30, 2013, the Superior Court denied the motion.[13] The court explained that the sentence imposed was fair and appropriate and a modification was not warranted.[14]

          10. On May 2, 2016, filed his second Rule 61 motion for postconviction relief. In that motion Defendant raised and re-raised claims about his Extreme Emotional Distress which should have allegedly resulted in a lesser charge, "his mental anguish/illness", and claims that his counsel was ineffective at the investigation and plea stages.[15]

         11. On August 11, 2016, the undersigned Commissioner issued her Report and Recommendation recommending that Defendant's second Rule 61 motion be summarily dismissed.[16] The Commissioner ruled that Defendant's motion failed to meet the pleading requirements necessary for proceeding with a second Rule 61 motion.[17] Specifically, Defendant failed to plead with particularity that any new evidence existed that created a strong inference that he was actually innocent of the charge nor did he contend that there was a new rule of law that would render his conviction invalid.[18] The Commissioner also concluded that the motion was time-barred (filed over 8 years after the final order of conviction), waived (all the claims stemmed from alleged errors, deficiencies or defects occurring prior to the entry of plea and were waived at the time of the entry of the voluntary plea), and otherwise procedurally barred.[19]

         12. On September 22, 2016, the Superior Court adopted the Commissioner's Report and Recommendation and denied Defendant's second Rule 61 postconviction motion.[20]

         DEFENDANT'S THIRD RULE 61 MOTION

         13. On December 8, 2016, Defendant filed his third Rule 61 postconviction motion. In the subject motion, he claims that the death of the victim was justified because Defendant was protecting others and therefore the death was not his fault, that he was justified in using force for his self-protection and that the death should not be deemed his fault, and that his mental illness or psychiatric disorder should have been a mitigating factor or should have resulted in him being deemed "not guilty by reason of insanity."

         14. As previously addressed in the Commissioner's Report and Recommendation of August 11, 2016 recommending the denial of Defendant's second Rule 61 motion, in second or subsequent postconviction motions, the motion shall be summarily dismissed unless the defendant establishes: 1) that new evidence exists that creates a strong inference that he is actually innocent of the charge for which he was convicted, or 2) the existence of a new rule of constitutional law made retroactive to cases on collateral review rendered his convictions invalid.[21] If it plainly appears from the motion for ...


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