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Salaberrios v. State

Supreme Court of Delaware

January 20, 2017

MANUEL SALABERRIOS, Defendant Below, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF DELAWARE, Plaintiff Below, Appellee.

          Submitted: October 28, 2016

         Court Below-Superior Court of the State of Delaware Cr. ID No. 1405016171

          Before STRINE, Chief Justice; VAUGHN and SEITZ, Justices.

          ORDER

          Collins J. Seitz, Jr. Justice.

         This 20th day of January 2017, having considered the appellant's brief under Supreme Court Rule 26(c), his attorney's motion to withdraw, and the State's response, it appears to the Court that:

         (1) In May 2014, the appellant, Manuel Salaberrios, and another man, Scott Kuntz, were incarcerated at the Central Violation of Probation Center (CVOP) near Smyrna, Delaware. On May 19, 2014, the two men were in the CVOP's housing area during free time when Salaberrios struck Kuntz in the face. The incident was recorded by a CVOP security camera. Following the incident, Kuntz was examined by a registered nurse in the CVOP's medical unit. The nurse noted a laceration on the inside of Kuntz' lower lip and some swelling. Kuntz told the nurse that he was not in pain, and he declined medication for the injury.

         (2) As a result of the incident, Salaberrios was indicted in June 2014 on one count of assault in a detention facility for having intentionally caused physical injury to Kuntz.[1] On December 12, 2014, a Superior Court jury convicted Salaberrios of attempted assault in a detention facility as a lesser-included offense of assault in a detention facility.[2] At sentencing on April 29, 2016, the Superior Court declared Salaberrios a habitual offender and sentenced him to a mandatory minimum of eight years at Level V incarceration followed by six months at Level IV. This is Salaberrios' direct appeal.

         (3) On appeal, Salaberrios' appellate counsel has filed a no-merit brief and a motion to withdraw under Supreme Court Rule 26(c).[3] Appellate counsel asserts that, based upon a complete and careful examination of the record, there are no arguably appealable issues in Salaberrios' case. Appellate counsel has advised the Court that he provided Salaberrios with a copy of the motion to withdraw, the no-merit brief and appendix in draft form, and a letter requesting that Salaberrios send him written points for the Court's consideration. Salaberrios sent written points to appellate counsel. The points are included in the brief. The State has responded to the no-merit brief, Salaberrios' written submission, and has moved to affirm the Superior Court's judgment.

         (4) When reviewing a motion to withdraw and an accompanying brief under Rule 26(c), this Court must be satisfied that the appellant's counsel has made a conscientious examination of the record and the law for arguable claims.[4] Also, the Court must conduct its own review of the record and determine "whether the appeal is indeed so frivolous that it may be decided without an adversary presentation."[5] In this case, having conducted "a full examination of all the proceedings" and found "no nonfrivolous issue for appeal, "[6] the Court is satisfied that Salaberrios' appellate counsel made a conscientious effort to examine the record and the law and properly determined that Salaberrios could not raise a meritorious claim on appeal.

         (5) The record reflects that, on the first day of trial, the prosecutor asked the Superior Court to conduct a colloquy with Salaberrios on his decision to reject the State's plea offer. The prosecutor also indicated that the State would be requesting a jury instruction on attempted assault in a detention facility as a lesser-included offense of assault in a detention facility.

         (6) The State's plea offer required Salaberrios to plead guilty to assault in a detention facility, which has a two-year mandatory minimum sentence of incarceration.[7] As part of the offer, the State agreed that it would not seek habitual offender sentencing and that it would recommend that the court impose no more than three years of incarceration.

         (7) The Superior Court conducted a colloquy with Salaberrios about the plea offer and the potential consequences of accepting and rejecting the plea. At the conclusion of the colloquy, the court took a recess to give Salaberrios extra time to consult with his trial counsel and consider the offer. An excerpt from the trial transcript reflects the following exchange.

Trial Judge: All right. And the State's charged you with assault in a detention facility, and apparently thinks that because of your criminal history, you're going to qualify for sentencing as a habitual offender. They've told you that, I assume; right?
Salaberrios: Yes, Your Honor.
Trial Judge: And has [your trial counsel] gone over the fact that if you - if this trial doesn't go the way you'd like it to go and you're convicted, the State is going to play its card that you're habitual, and then they're going to force me to impose an eight-year jail sentence. And what I want to assure you of is if this doesn't go right today, I have no discretion. Assuming you qualify for habitual, that is, you have three prior felony convictions. . . . I have to impose an eight-year sentence. I have no discretion. I have no choice. . . . Okay?
Salaberrios: ...

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