Submitted: October 17, 2016
Below-Superior Court of the State of Delaware Cr. ID No.
STRINE, Chief Justice; VAUGHN, and SEITZ, Justices.
Collins J. Seitz, Jr. Justice.
17th day of January 2017, upon consideration of
the appellant's opening brief, the appellee's motion
to affirm, and the Superior Court record, it appears to the
appellant, Demaris Walker, filed this appeal from the
Superior Court's dismissal of his third motion for
postconviction relief under Superior Court Criminal Rule
The State of Delaware has filed a motion to affirm the
judgment below on the ground that it is manifest on the face
of Walker's brief that his appeal is without merit. We
agree and affirm.
April 2002, Walker and a co-defendant were charged in the
March 2002 rape and robbery of an elderly woman in
Georgetown, Delaware. Walker was seventeen years old at the
time of the offenses. In October 2002, Walker's
co-defendant pled guilty to one count each of Rape in the
Second Degree and Attempted Robbery in the First Degree and
agreed to testify at Walker's jury trial in February
jury convicted Walker of three counts of Rape in the Second
Degree and one count each of Attempted Robbery in the First
Degree, Burglary in the First Degree, Theft from a Senior,
and Conspiracy in the Second Degree. On March 28, 2003, the
Superior Court sentenced Walker to a total of 55 years of
unsuspended incarceration. Walker's convictions and
sentence were affirmed on direct appeal.
2006 and 2011, Walker filed motions for postconviction
relief. Both motions were denied, and on appeal, the
judgments were affirmed. Walker filed his third motion for
postconviction relief in May 2016. In it, Walker claimed that
his sentence should be treated as a life sentence, and that
the sentence violates the Eighth Amendment because the
Superior Court did not consider that Walker was a juvenile at
the time of the offenses. Also, Walker claimed that his trial
counsel was ineffective for failing to request a specific
jury instruction on the credibility of accomplice testimony.
This Court reviews the Superior Court's dismissal of a
postconviction motion for abuse of discretion and questions
of law de novo. We are required to consider the
procedural requirements of Rule 61 before addressing any
substantive issues. In this case, the Superior Court dismissed
Walker's third postconviction motion under Rule 61(d)(2),
which bars a successive motion for postconviction relief that
fails to comply with certain pleading
requirements. Walker does not address Rule 61(d)(2) in
his opening brief on appeal.
Having carefully considered the parties' positions on
appeal, the Court concludes that the dismissal of
Walker's third postconviction motion should be affirmed.
None of Walker's claims pleaded with particularity the
existence of new evidence that created a strong inference of
actual innocence or a new rule of constitutional law that was
retroactively applicable as required under Rule
61(d)(2). Walker's Eighth Amendment claim relied
on a trilogy of United States Supreme Court decisions that
together bar capital punishment and life sentences without
parole for juvenile offenders. Although it may be that the
imposition of a specific sentence of years to a minor in a
specific case could be deemed the equivalent of a life
sentence that the Supreme Court could not logically
distinguish from its holding in the trilogy of cases noted
earlier, this is not such case. At the time of his heinous
crime, Walker was just shy of the age of majority. Life
expectancy in the United States is now 78.8 years,
which is over a decade beyond when Walker would be eligible
doubt 45 years is a long sentence for an offender sentenced
when he was almost 18 years old. But there are consequences
to committing serious crimes of violence and rape. The mere
fact that a trial judge imposed a correspondingly serious
sentence within his statutory discretion does convert that
sentence into a life sentence simply because a state statute
dealing with another context equates that time period to a
life sentence for very different purposes.
Although Walker's sentence is lengthy, it is clear that
the trial judge in fact tailored the sentence to enable
Walker the chance for release at a time when he could be
expected to have many years of life ahead of him. Rule 61
provides a limited window for judicial review, especially
upon a repetitive motion. Walker's claim does not fall
within that window.
THEREFORE, IT IS ORDERED that the motion to affirm is
GRANTED. The judgment ...