Submitted: February 14, 2017
J. Robertson, Esquire, Deputy Attorney General, Department of
Justice, Wilmington, Delaware, Attorney for the State.
Obediah York-James, Sussex Correctional Institution,
Georgetown, Delaware, pro se.
COMMISSIONER'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION THAT
DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR POSTCONVICTION RELIEF SHOULD BE
M. Parker Commissioner
8th day of March 2017, upon consideration of Defendant's
Motion for Postconviction Relief, it appears to the Court
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
December 8, 2014, Defendant Obediah York-James was indicted
on the charges of Attempted Murder in the First Degree, two
counts of Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a
Felony ("PFDCF"), Robbery in the First Degree, and
Conspiracy Second Degree. One count of PFDCF was linked to
the robbery and one count of PFDCF was linked to the
charges stemmed from an August 21, 2014 robbery of a liquor
store, Cutrona's Liquors. During the commission of the
robbery, Defendant pointed a gun at the clerk, Navin Patel,
and shot him twice hitting him in the wrist and the chest.
Mr. Patel required extensive surgery to save his life. There
was a video recording which captured Defendant's robbery
and his shooting of the clerk. This video tape recording was
very damaging evidence against Defendant.
Defendant was 16 years old at the time of the incident.
April 22, 2015, the parties entered into a plea agreement.
The State agreed to allow Defendant to enter a guilty plea to
substantially reduced charges. The State agreed to amend the
Attempted Murder in the First Degree charge, and allow
Defendant to plead guilty to the lesser charge of Assault in
the First Degree. In addition to the Assault in the First
Degree charge, the parties agreed that Defendant would also
plead guilty to Robbery in the First Degree, and both counts
part of the plea agreement, the State agreed to dismiss the
remaining charge of Conspiracy in the Second Degree. For the
four charges comprising the guilty plea, the minimum
mandatory sentence Defendant faced was 11 years of
unsuspended Level V time with a maximum sentence of 100 years
of incarceration. If the State had not allowed the Defendant
to plead guilty to the lesser charge of Assault in the First
Degree, and Defendant went to trial on the Attempted Murder
in First Degree charge, he would have been facing, on that
charge alone, a minimum mandatory sentence of 15 years of
incarceration and up to life imprisonment.
part of the plea agreement, the State agreed to recommend the
minimum mandatory sentence of 11 years of unsuspended Level V
Defendant's mother was present during the plea
negotiations. Defendant's counsel consulted with
both Defendant and his mother during the plea negotiations.
Defendant and his mother both signed the plea agreement
accepting the plea.
Defendant consulted with his family and with defense counsel
prior to accepting the plea.
Prior to entering into the plea, defense counsel had met
Defendant on several occasions at the New Castle County
Detention Center, and several times at the court
house. Defense counsel also communicated with
Defendant's parents. The video recording which captured
Defendant's robbery and shooting taking place was very
damaging evidence against Defendant. In Defense Counsel's
professional opinion, if Defendant went to trial there was a
substantial risk of conviction for the Attempted Murder in
the First Degree charge, which alone carried a minimum
mandatory sentence of 15 years of incarceration and up to
Defense counsel believed that the plea was the best result
that Defendant could hope to obtain given the facts and
circumstances of this case.
After the entry of the plea, Defendant was immediately
sentenced to the minimum mandatory 11 years of unsuspended
Level V time followed by decreasing levels of probation.
Defendant did not file a direct appeal to the Delaware
RULE 61 MOTION
Defendant was sentenced on April 22, 2015. The subject motion
was filed on October 11, 2016, almost 17 months later.
the subject motion, Defendant claims that his plea was
"coerced" and uninformed, that the two counts of
PFDCF should have been merged into one count, and that his
counsel was ineffective for not getting him a better plea.
Before making a recommendation, the Commissioner enlarged the
record by directing Defendant's trial counsel to submit
at Affidavit responding to Defendant's ineffective
assistance of counsel claims. Thereafter, the State filed a
response to the motion. Finally, Defendant submitted a reply
claims raised in the subject motion are procedurally barred,
waived and without merit.
Defendant's Motion is Procedurally Barred
Prior to addressing the substantive merits of any claim for
postconviction relief, the court must first determine whether
the defendant has met the procedural requirements of Superior
Court Criminal Rule 61. If a procedural bar exists, then the
claim is barred, and the Court should not consider the merits
of the postconviction claim.
Rule 61 (i) imposes four procedural imperatives: (1) the
motion must be filed within one year of a final order of
conviction; (2) any basis for relief must be
asserted in the first timely filed motion for postconviction
relief absent exceptional circumstances warranting a
subsequent motion being filed; (3) any basis for relief must
have been asserted at trial or on direct appeal as required
by the court rules unless the movant shows prejudice to his
rights and cause for relief; and (4) any basis for relief
must not have been formally adjudicated in any proceeding.
The bars to relief however do not apply to a claim that the
court lacked jurisdiction or to a claim that new evidence
exists that movant is actually innocent or that there is a
new law, made retroactive, that would render the conviction
Rule 61(i)(1) provides that a motion for postconviction
relief is untimely if it is filed more than one year after a
final judgment of conviction. In this case, Defendant was
sentenced on April 22, 2015, and did not file a direct
appeal. Therefore, Defendant's judgment of conviction
became final 30 days after his sentence was imposed, on or
about May 22, 2015. The motion, filed on October 11, 2016,
was filed over one year after the final judgment of
conviction and is procedurally barred as untimely.
Moreover, in addition to being untimely, Rule 61(i)(3)
required that Defendant raise his claims, with the exception
of his ineffective assistance of counsel contentions, on
direct appeal. Defendant's ineffective assistance
of counsel claims are not procedurally barred by Rule