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State v. Brown

Superior Court of Delaware

April 10, 2017

STATE OF DELAWARE,
v.
WILLIAM BROWN, Defendant.

          Submitted: January 23, 2017

         Upon Defendant's Motion to Dismiss for Violation of the Interstate Agreement on Detainers: GRANTED.

          Sean P. Lugg, Esquire (argued), and James J. Kriner, Esquire, Deputy Attorneys General, Delaware Department of Justice, 820 North French Street, 7th Floor, Wilmington, DE. Attorneys for the State.

          John S. Malik, Esquire (argued), 100 East 14th Street, Wilmington, DE, and Christopher S. Koyste, Esquire, Law Office of Christopher S. Koyste, LLC, 709 Brandywine Boulevard, Bellefonte, DE. Attorneys for Defendant William Brown.

          OPINION

          Jan R. Jurden, President Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Before the Court is Defendant William Brown's Motion to Dismiss for Violation of the Interstate Agreement on Detainers.[1] For the reasons that follow, Defendant's motion is GRANTED.

         II. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On July 2, 2012, Defendant William Brown, Jr. ("Brown") and co-defendant Earl Harris ("Harris") were indicted on capital murder charges.[2] At the time of indictment, Brown was incarcerated in Federal Correctional Institution ("FO")-Cumberland for an unrelated conviction.[3] On July 15, 2013, the State advised the Court by letter that Brown was still incarcerated out-of-state and the Public Defender's Office ("PDO") had not yet assigned counsel.[4] In that same letter, the State expressed its desire to bring Brown to trial "in a timely fashion, " and requested appointment of counsel for defendants.[5] On July 26, 2013, the Court stated that counsel would need to be assigned before a scheduling conference could take place.[6] That same day, the PDO responded it could not conduct its conflict evaluation until: (1) Brown was in the custody of the Delaware Department of Correction ("DOC"); and (2) the State provided a witness list to the PDO.[7] On August 21, 2013, the PDO informed the Court that "the PDO's position remains as stated . . . [on July 26, 2013]. For the PDO to attend an office conference and represent the interests of individuals who have not sought our services would be an ethical breach."[8]

         On March 27, 2014, the State filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum ("Writ") to obtain Brown from federal custody.[9] On March 31, 2014, the Court issued a Writ to federal authorities for custody of Brown.[10] Before the State delivered the Writ to FCI-Cumberland, Brown was moved to another federal prison, FCI-McDowell.[11] On May 7, 2014, the State lodged a detainer against Brown with the Federal Bureau of Prisons.[12] On July 29, 2014, at the State's request, the Court issued a Writ to FCI-McDowell.[13]

         On August 12, 2014, the State withdrew the detainer lodged against Brown[14]in response to a "procedural request" from FCI-McDowell.[15] FCI-McDowell asked the State to clear the detainer "to then allow for Defendant Brown to be returned [to Delaware] pursuant to the writ."[16] The next day, August 13, 2014, the State returned Brown to Delaware.[17]

         On August 15, 2014, a representative from the PDO interviewed Brown and determined he was eligible for representation.[18] On August 18, 2014, the PDO began representing Brown.[19] On October 31, 2014, the Court held an office conference during which the Court declared a conflict of interest between Brown and the PDO.[20] On November 13, 2014, the Court signed an order appointing conflict counsel.[21]

         On March 2, 2015, the Court held an office conference and scheduled a trial date of October 4, 2016.[22] During that conference, and before the Court set the trial date, the State represented that: (1) Brown had not been brought to Delaware under the Uniform Agreement on Detainers ("UAD" or "IAD");[23] and (2) the UAD does not apply in capital cases.[24]

         On February 8, 2016, Brown moved to dismiss all counts of the indictment except for intentional murder based on the expiration of the statute of limitations.[25] On March 15, 2016, without opposition from the State, the Court granted Brown's Motion to Dismiss, except for two counts of felony murder and the unchallenged count of intentional murder.[26] Three days after the Court issued that decision, Brown's co-defendant Harris filed a Motion to Dismiss Counts III and IV of the Indictment ("Motion to Dismiss Counts III and IV of the Indictment") on Speedy Trial and Due Process grounds.[27] Brown joined Harris' motion.[28] On June 2, 2016, the Court denied Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Counts III and IV of the Indictment.[29]

         On August 4, 2016, the State, on its own initiative and in commendable adherence to its duty of candor to the tribunal, advised the Court and defense counsel by letter that it had erroneously represented that the UAD time limit did not apply in this case.[30] Citing United States v. Mauro, [31] the State acknowledged that "[w]hile neither defendant asserted claims [in the Motion to Dismiss Counts III and IV of the Indictment] concerning timeliness of their prosecution pursuant to the Uniform Agreement on Detainers . . . these provisions may apply here."[32] In response to this disclosure, Brown filed the instant Motion to Dismiss for Violation of the Interstate Agreement on Detainers.[33]

         III. PARTIES' CONTENTIONS

         Brown contends that the State violated the UAD by failing to bring him to trial within 120 days of his arrival in Delaware and therefore the indictment must be dismissed.[34] Brown further argues that the State's erroneous belief that the UAD's time limit was inapplicable in his case does not constitute "good cause shown in open court"[35] to allow the State to prosecute this case after the expiration of the UAD's 120-day time limit.[36]

         In opposition, the State submits three main arguments.[37] First, the State argues that the UAD's 120-day time limit does not apply in this case because the State withdrew the detainer on August 12, 2014, and Brown was transferred by Writ alone, outside of the UAD's purview[38] In the alternative, the State contends that Brown waived the 120-day time limit when his counsel agreed to the October 4, 2016 trial date during the March 2, 2015 office conference.[39] Finally, the State argues that "good cause" exists under this specific set of circumstances such that trial may properly be held more than 120 days after Brown's arrival in Delaware.[40]

         IV. DISCUSSION

         A. The Uniform Agreement on Detainers

         In 1969, the Delaware Legislature enacted the Uniform Agreement on Detainers ("UAD"), [41] which "is designed in part to protect the rights of prisoners who have outstanding detainers lodged against them by another jurisdiction.[42] The preamble elaborates that "charges outstanding against a prisoner, detainers based on untried indictments, informations, or complaints and difficulties in securing speedy trial of persons already incarcerated in other jurisdictions, produce uncertainties which obstruct programs of prisoner treatment and rehabilitation."[43] As such, the purpose of the UAD is "to encourage the expeditious and orderly disposition of such charges and determination of the proper status of any and all detainers based on untried indictments, informations or complaints.''[44]

         Pursuant to the express language of 11 Del. C. § 2543(c), once the State has lodged a detainer and made a written request for temporary custody, it must bring the untried indictment, information, or complaint to trial within 120 days of the defendant's arrival in Delaware.[45] A detainer is "a request by the receiving state for the sending state to detain the prisoner or to send notification when the prisoner is about to be released."[46] Under the UAD, a detainer is distinct from a "written request for temporary custody."[47] The detainer serves to put officials in the sending State "on notice that the prisoner is wanted in another jurisdiction, " whereas a "written request" represents "[f]urther action [which] must be taken by the receiving State in order to obtain the prisoner."[48]

         Once the receiving State lodges a detainer against a prisoner with sending State prison officials, the UAD, by its express terms, becomes applicable and the receiving State must comply with its provisions.[49] The Court may toll the UAD's 120-day time limit upon a showing of good cause in open court in the presence of the defendant or the defendant's counsel.[50] If the State fails to bring the matter to trial within 120 days or within the time allowed by a properly sought and granted continuance, the UAD requires that the matter be dismissed with prejudice.[51] The burden of compliance with the procedural requirements of the UAD rests upon the State.[52]

         B. United States v. Mauro

         United States v. Mauro is more than instructive here; it is dispositive. In Mauro, the United States Supreme Court addressed the scope of the government's obligations under the IAD and, in particular, whether a writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum could constitute a detainer or "written request" within the meaning of the IAD.[53]

         The United States Supreme Court held that when a State files a detainer against a prisoner and then obtains custody of that prisoner by means of a wril of habeas corpus ad prosequendum, the writ constitutes a "written request" within the meaning of the IAD.[54] Once the detainer is lodged, the IAD by its express terms becomes applicable, and the State must comply with its provisions.[55] The United States Supreme Court's ruling is clear: "whenever the receiving State initiates the disposition of charges underlying a detainer it has previously lodged against a state prisoner, " the IAD requires commencement of trial within 120 days of the defendant's arrival in the receiving State.[56] Given the import of Mauro to this case, the Court finds it necessary to review Mauro''s facts and procedural history.

         One of the two cases before the Supreme Court in Mauro is directly on point.[57] In that case, Richard Ford, who was incarcerated at a state prison in Massachusetts, was charged with bank robbery by the federal government ("Government") in the Southern District of New York.[58] Federal officials lodged a federal bank robbery warrant as a detainer against Ford with Massachusetts state prison authorities.[59] After Ford was convicted in Massachusetts, the Government requested and received custody of Ford pursuant to a writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum[60]The New York proceedings were adjourned for two weeks, at which time the District Court set a trial date of May 28, 1974.[61] The New York trial, however, was postponed five separate times, either at the request of the Government or on the District Court's own initiative.

         While awaiting the New York trial, Ford requested to be returned to the Massachusetts state prison. The Government transferred Ford into Massachusetts' custody, and during that time, Massachusetts denied Ford furlough privileges due to the outstanding federal detainer lodged against him.[62] On August 8, 1975, the Government brought Ford back to New York to stand trial by means of a second writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum[63] The Government finally brought Ford to trial on September 2, 1975-well after the IAD's 120-day time limit had expired.[64] The jury found Ford guilty on all counts.[65]

         Following trial, Ford appealed to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, asserting that the charges against him should have been dismissed under the IAD because Ford was not tried within 120 days of his initial arrival in New York.[66]The Second Circuit held that because the Government lodged a detainer against Ford, the IAD governed Ford's situation.[67] Moreover, according to the Second Circuit, the writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum used to bring Ford to New York qualified as a "written request for temporary custody or availability" within the meaning of Article IV(a) of the IAD.[68] Accordingly, the Second Circuit dismissed Ford's indictment with prejudice.[69]

         The Government appealed to the United States Supreme Court, arguing that the phrase "written request for temporary custody" in the IAD was not intended to include writs of habeas corpus ad prosequendum. First, the Government argued that the 30-day waiting period imposed by Article IV(a) of the IAD, [70] during which the governor of a sending State may disapprove a request for temporary custody, would permit a State to disregard a federal court's order (e.g., writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum), contrary to the Supremacy Clause. Second, the Government argued that Article IV(c) of the IAD, [71] which imposes the speedy trial requirement, only applies to "proceeding[s] made possible by this article, " and when a prisoner is brought before a district court by means of a writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum, the subsequent proceedings are not "made possible" by Article IV of the IAD because writs of habeas corpus ad prosequendum were used to obtain prisoners from other jurisdictions long before the enactment of the IAD.[72]

         The Supreme Court rejected both arguments. First, the Supreme Court found that the Article I V(a) did not expand the rights of sending States to dishonor federal court orders; rather, it was "meant to do no more than preserve previously existing rights of the sending States."[73] Therefore, the Supreme Court held that Article IV(a) was not inconsistent with the Supremacy Clause.[74] Second, the Supreme Court adopted a broad definition of "written request, " reasoning that "[a]ny other reading of [Article IV(c)] would allow the Government to gain the advantages of lodging a detainer against a prisoner without assuming the responsibilities that the [IAD] intended to arise from such an action."[75]

         The Supreme Court explained in Mauro:

Once the Federal Government lodges a detainer against a prisoner with state prison officials, the [IAD] by its express terms becomes applicable and the United States must comply with its provisions. And once a detainer has been lodged, the United States has precipitated the very problems with which the [IAD] is concerned. Because at that point the policies underlying the [IAD] are fully implicated, we see no reason to give an unduly restrictive meaning to the term "written request for temporary custody." It matters not whether the Government presents the prison authorities in the sending State with a piece of paper labeled "request for temporary custody" or with a writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum demanding the prisoner's presence in federal court on a certain day; in either case the United States is able to obtain temporary custody of the prisoner. Because the detainer remains lodged against the prisoner until the underlying charges are finally resolved, the [IAD] requires that the disposition be speedy and that it be obtained before the prisoner is returned to the sending State. The fact that the prisoner is brought before the district court by means of a writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum in no way reduces the need for this prompt disposition of the charges underlying the detainer. In this situation it clearly would permit the United States to circumvent its obligations under the [IAD] to hold that an ad prosequendum writ may not be considered a written request for temporary custody.[76]

         Accordingly, the Supreme Court affirmed the Second Circuit's dismissal of Ford's indictment.[77]

         C. Analysis

         The State's contention that Brown was not brought to Delaware under the UAD because the State withdrew the detainer prior to Brown's transfer is incorrect. Under 11 Del. C. § 2543, the UAD time limit, once triggered by the lodging of a detainer and the presentation of a written request by the State, "cannot be subverted by the withdrawal of the detainer without the accompanying resolution of the underlying charges."[78] The State lodged a detainer against Brown on May 7, 2014.[79] The Writ issued on July 29, 2014 constituted a "written request" for custody under the UAD.[80] Under the plain language of 11 Del. C. § 2543(a), the State's lodging of the detainer and subsequent presentation of the Writ triggered the UAD's provisions. The withdrawal of the detainer on the day prior to Brown's transfer to Delaware did not operate to remove this case from the purview of the UAD.

         Once the 120-day UAD time limit was triggered on August 13, 2014 (the day Brown was returned to Delaware), the State was required to bring Brown to trial, establish good cause in open court to obtain a continuance, or dismiss the charges, within 120 days.[81] By December 11, 2014, Brown had already been in Delaware for 120 days. As of that date, the State had not brought Brown to trial, sought a continuance for good cause in open court, or dismissed the charges against him. Thus, as of December 12, 2014, the UAD mandated dismissal of the charges against Brown with prejudice.[82]

         This is not a case where the defendant obscured the applicability of the UAD or "avoid[ed] clear objection until the clock ha[d] run."[83] At oral argument on this motion, the Court asked the State if it could identify anything in the record that would suggest Brown or his co-defendant were "gaming the system" or "lying in wait" for the 120-day limit to expire.[84] The State responded that it could not identify any such evidence.[85]

         Relying on New York v. Hill [86] Bruce v. State [87] and Davis v. State, [88] the State maintains that Brown waived the UAD's 120-day time limit by agreeing to a trial date outside of that limit.[89] The State's reliance on these cases is misplaced. In Hill, the United States Supreme Court held that a defendant waived his rights under the IAD because, before the IAD time limit expired, he agreed to a trial date outside of the time limit.[90] In Bruce and Davis, a continuance for good cause was sought and granted before the applicable UAD time limit expired [91] In relying on Hill, Bruce, and Davis, the State overlooks the key fact that, here, the 120-day limit had already expired by the time the October 4, 2016 trial date was set.[92]

         Alternatively, the State argues that the Court should find, after-the-fact, that "good cause" existed under the UAD to hold trial more than 120 days after Brown's return to Delaware.[93] But the State is unable to cite lo any case in which a Delaware court has retroactively determined that "good cause" existed to grant a continuance sought after the expiration of the applicable UAD time limit[94]

         The United States Supreme Court has not opined on this issue, [95] but courts in other jurisdictions have, expressly declining to conduct the type of after-the-fact "good cause" determination the State seeks here. For example, in Commonwealth v. Fisher [96] the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania reversed a defendant's conviction because the prosecutor requested a continuance one day after the expiration of the UAD time limit, in violation of the UAD, even though the prosecutor "might arguably have had good cause to obtain a continuance."[97] In State v. Patterson, [98] the Supreme Court of South Carolina held that the trial court had no discretion to grant a continuance after the applicable 180-day time limit had expired."[99] In State v. Smith, [100] a Missouri Court of Appeals declined to consider whether good cause existed to grant a continuance request made outside the applicable time limit, finding that the trial court's granting of the continuance violated the defendant's rights under the UAD.[101] Given the foregoing authorities, the Court is not persuaded by the two cases identified by the State as opposing authority, [102] and declines to follow them.[103]

         In light of the express language of the UAD, the relevant case law, and the facts and procedural history presented in this case, the Court will not engage in an after-the-fact analysis to determine whether good cause existed for a continuance where the continuance was not sought within the time period required by the UAD.

         V. CONCLUSION

         The language of the UAD is clear, as is the United States Supreme Court's holding in Mauro. Given what transpired here, the Court has no discretion. Dismissal with prejudice is mandated due to t he State's failure to comply with the UAD.[104] Defendant William Brown's Motion to Dismiss for Violation of the Interstate Agreement on Detainers is GRANTED.

         IT IS ...


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