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State v. Anderson

Superior Court of Delaware

January 13, 2017


          Submitted: October 14, 2016

         Upon Defendant's Motion for Post-Conviction Relief: DENIED

          Abigail M. LeGrow, Judge.

         This 12th day of January, 2017, upon consideration of Defendant's Motion for Post-Conviction Relief (the "Motion") under Superior Court Criminal Rule 61 ("Rule 61"), the submissions of counsel, and the record in this case, it appears to the Court that:


         1. In April 2014, Defendant William Anderson was involved in an altercation with Gary Staffieri, who was Anderson's coworker at the Auto Mart in Elsmere, Delaware. Anderson was indicted on June 23, 2014 on a charge of Assault Second Degree under 11 Del. C. § 612(a)(6), which provides: "A person is guilty of assault in the second degree when: ... (6) [t]he person . . . intentionally causes physical injury to another person who is 62 years of age or older." Staffieri was 67 at the time of the altercation.

         2. Anderson's case proceeded to trial in January 2015, where he was represented by Timothy J. Weiler, Esq. (hereinafter, "Trial Counsel"). At trial, the State presented the testimony of Staffieri, who testified Anderson approached him while Staffieri was retrieving a battery from a back room and the next thing Staffieri remembered was waking up outside with a lump on his head. Another co-worker, Ricardo Reyes, testified that he witnessed the incident between Anderson and Staffieri, that Staffieri struck Anderson with his knee, and that Anderson then pushed and struck Staffieri. Reyes left the scene to get a supervisor and, when he returned, saw Staffieri having seizures, shaking, and with a large lump on his head. Finally, Elsmere Police Officer Andrew Davis testified that he interviewed Staffieri while he was receiving treatment at the hospital and that Staffieri reported that Anderson struck him in the head.

         3. In his defense, Anderson called the owner of Auto Mart, Allan Bobb, who testified that Staffieri's demeanor was unusual on the day of the incident and that Staffieri admitted to drinking alcohol that morning. Anderson also testified in his own defense. He admitted to striking Staffieri, but stated he only did so because Staffieri kneed him in the abdomen. After Anderson testified that he "would never try to injure someone like that, " the Court permitted the State to introduce evidence of Anderson's prior convictions for Assault Third Degree and Offensive Touching. At no time before the jury retired to deliberate did Trial Counsel move for a judgment of acquittal.

         4. During closing arguments, the prosecutor told the jury that "the State believes that we've proven each and every element of [the] charge to you beyond a reasonable doubt." Trial Counsel did not object to that statement. After receiving instructions and deliberating, the jury returned a guilty verdict.

         5. On February 20, 2015, after trial but before sentencing, the trial judge received a letter from a juror, who stated she felt "very unsettled about the 'guilty' verdict."[1] The juror indicated she "felt Mr. Staffieri was equally, if not MORE at fault since he had been drinking that morning and is the one who offered the first 'knee to the groin.'. . . [I]t felt terribly wrong pinning the charge solely on Mr. Anderson."[2] The juror continued:

During deliberations, there were 3 points in the packet of information that I sensed corralled us into a guilty verdict, and regardless of what the 'law' states, that was unjust, to say the least. Again, I felt they were both at fault.
Having said all of that, I hope that justice is served equally somehow, and that Mr. Anderson does not receive the full weight of what should be appropriated to both men in this case.[3]

         The trial judge forwarded the letter to the parties upon receipt.

         6. After the jury returned its verdict, the Court ordered a pre-sentence investigation. Anderson did not participate in his interview with the pre-sentence office, although that office attempted to contact him several times. At sentencing on May 29, 2015, the Court received comments from the State and from Trial Counsel. Anderson relied on Trial Counsel's statements and did not offer his own remarks. The Court sentenced Anderson to eight years at Level V, suspended after three years for decreasing levels of supervision.

         7. Anderson took a direct appeal to the Delaware Supreme Court with the assistance of Michael Modica, Esq. ("Appellate Counsel"). Appellate Counsel raised five issues on appeal: (1) the evidence was not sufficient to support a conviction; (2) this Court erred in admitting evidence of Anderson's prior convictions; (3) this Court erred by failing, sua sponte, to give a jury instruction regarding "Character of the Accused"; (4) the State committed prosecutorial misconduct during closing arguments; and (5) this Court denied Anderson his right to allocution during sentencing. The Delaware Supreme Court rejected each such claim of error and affirmed the decision below.[4]

         8. Anderson filed this Motion on July 25, 2016, raising six grounds for post-conviction relief, including five claims of ineffective assistance of counsel and one claim of judicial abuse of discretion. As to the claims of ineffective assistance, Anderson alleges Trial Counsel was ineffective by failing to: (1) object to the prosecutor's statements, highlight inconsistent testimony, and move for judgment of acquittal; (2) communicate effectively with Anderson; (3) keep Anderson apprised about his PSI and sentencing; (4) cross-examine Staffieri effectively; and (5) properly advise Anderson regarding the advisability of a plea bargain.[5] As to his claim of judicial abuse of discretion, Anderson alleges the Court erred by failing to take appropriate action after receiving the juror letter referenced above. By order dated August 15, 2016, the Court ordered Trial Counsel to respond to the Motion by affidavit ...

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