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State v. Smith

Superior Court of Delaware

June 12, 2017

STATE OF DELAWARE, Plaintiff,
v.
JY'AIRE D. SMITH, Defendant.

          Submitted: May 5, 2017

         COMMISSIONER'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION THAT DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR POSTCONVICTION RELIEF SHOULD BE DENIED.

          Monil D. Amin, Esquire, Deputy Attorney General, Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware, Attorney for the State.

          Jy'Aire D. Smith, Sussex Correctional Institution, Georgetown, Delaware, pro se.

          PARKER, Commissioner

         This 12th day of June 2017, upon consideration of Defendant's Motion for Postconviction Relief, it appears to the Court that:

         BACKGROUND, FACTS AMD PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         1. On July 21, 2014, Defendant Jy'Aire D. Smith was indicted on the charges of Possession of a Firearm by a Person Prohibited ("PFBPP") and Possession of Ammunition by a Person Prohibited ("PABPP").

         2. On December 16, 2014, Defendant pled guilty to the charge of PABPP. As part of the plea agreement, the State agreed to dismiss the PFBPP charge.

         3. If convicted of the PFBPP charge, Defendant was facing a minimum mandatory prison term of 10 years.[1] By pleading guilty only to the PABPP charge, Defendant was not exposed to any minimum mandatory time and his exposure to prison was capped at a maximum of 8 years.

         4. The charges stemmed from the seizure of a gun and ammunition from Defendant's belongings at the residence where he was staying. The State had photographs of Defendant holding a gun with unique characteristics. The gun seized from Defendant's residence had the same unique characteristics as the gun Defendant was holding in the photographs.[2] The State's evidence against Defendant was strong and he faced the likelihood of being convicted of both charges at trial thereby facing a prison sentence of not less than 10 years and up to 33 years.

         5. After the plea was entered but before sentencing, Defendant requested the appointment of new counsel to represent him.[3] The court granted Defendant's request and appointed new counsel to represent Defendant.[4]

         6. Following a presentence investigation, on June 26, 2015, Defendant was sentenced to a total of eight years at Level V, suspended after three years, followed by probation.

         7. Defendant did not file a direct appeal to the Delaware Supreme Court.

         DEFENDANT'S RULE 61 MOTION

         8. On June 27, 2016, Defendant timely filed the subject Rule 61 motion.[5] In the subject motion, Defendant claims: 1) that his counsel was ineffective because counsel did not provide him with his Rule 16 discovery packet and because defense counsel told him that counsel did not want to go to trial; 2) that he was sentenced incorrectly because his sentence exceeded sentencing guidelines; and 3) that his new attorney did not have enough time to prepare for trial after his previous attorney was removed from the case and that the whole process should have started all over again.

         9. Before making a recommendation, the record was enlarged and Defendant's counsel were both directed to submit Affidavits responding to Defendant's ineffective assistance of counsel claims. Thereafter, the State filed a response to the motion. Finally, Defendant was afforded an opportunity to submit a reply thereto.[6]

         10. The claims raised in the subject motion are procedurally barred, waived and without merit.

         A) One of the Claims Raised by Defendant is Procedurally Barred

         11. 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.[7] If a procedural bar exists, then the claim is barred, and the Court should not consider the merits of the postconviction claim.[8]

         12. Rule 61(i)(3) required that Defendant raise his claims, with the exception of his ineffective assistance of counsel contentions, on direct appeal.[9] Defendant's ineffective assistance of counsel claims are not procedurally barred by Rule 61(i)(3) because a Rule 61 motion is the appropriate vehicle for raising these claims.[10]

         13. As to Defendant's claim that he was sentenced incorrectly because his sentence exceeded sentencing guidelines, this claim is procedurally barred by Rule 61(i)(3), for Defendant's failure to raise it on direct appeal. This claim was known to Defendant since the date of his sentencing on June 25, 2015. Therefore, there is no justifiable reason for Defendant's failure to raise the issue on direct appeal if Defendant genuinely believed the claim had any merit.

         14. If a procedural bar exists, the court will not consider the merits of the claim unless the defendant can show that an exception found in Rule 61(i)(5) applies. Rule 61(i)(5) provides that consideration of an otherwise procedurally barred claim is limited to claims that the court lacked jurisdiction, or to claims that new evidence exists that creates a strong inference that the defendant is actually innocent of the underlying charges for which he was convicted; or to claims that a new rule of constitutional law applicable to that defendant's case would render his conviction invalid.[11]

         15. In the subject motion, Defendant is unable to overcome the procedural hurdles of Rule 61(i)(3) by showing an exception in Rule 61(i)(5) applies. Defendant has not established that the court lacked jurisdiction, that any new evidence existed to create a strong inference that Defendant is actually innocent of the underlying charges, or that a new rule of constitutional law exists that would render his conviction invalid. Defendant's claim that he was sentenced incorrectly is procedurally barred.

         B) All of Defendant's Claims Were Waived Upon Entry of His Plea

         16. In addition to Defendant's claim that he was sentenced incorrectly being procedurally barred, all of Defendant's claims were waived upon the entry of Defendant's guilty plea.

         17. Although Defendant now claims that his plea was somehow not informed due to his counsel's ineffectiveness, Defendant's Rule 61 claims are belied by the representations he made at the time he accepted his plea, admitted his guilt, and was sentenced.

         18. A defendant is bound by his answers on the guilty plea form and by his testimony at the plea colloquy in the absence of clear and convincing evidence to the contrary.[12] In this case, the Truth-in-Sentencing Guilty Plea Form, Plea Agreement and plea colloquy reveal that Defendant knowingly, voluntarily ...


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