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State v. Stanford

Superior Court of Delaware

August 28, 2017

STATE OF DELAWARE
v.
SHAMAR T. STANFORD, Defendant.

          SUPPLEMENTAL ORDER

          VIVIAN L. MEDINILLA JUDGE.

         AND NOW TO WIT, this 28th day of August, 2017, upon consideration of Defendant Shamar T. Stanford ("Defendant") 's Second Amended Motion for Postconviction Relief, [1] the sentence imposed upon Defendant, and the record in this case, it appears to the Court that:

         Factual and Procedural Background

         1. On December 12, 2016, Defendant pleaded guilty and was sentenced for charges of Possession of a Firearm by a Person Prohibited ("PFBPP") and misdemeanor Endangering the Welfare of a Child. As to PFBPP, he was sentenced to fifteen years at supervision Level V, suspended after five years for two years at Level III. His period of incarceration is a mandatory sentence pursuant to 11 Del. C. § 1448(e)(1)(b).[2] As to Endangering the Welfare of a Child, he received one year at Level V, suspended for one year at Level III.

         2. On June 7, 2017, this Court issued an Order denying Defendant's Motion for Postconviction Relief and his Motion for Appointment of Counsel.[3] On appeal, the State filed a Motion to Remand, [4] stating that the Court considered the claims Defendant raised in his First Amended Motion for Postconviction Relief, filed on April 10, 2017, rather than his Second Amended Motion for Postconviction Relief, filed on May 17, 2017. The Supreme Court granted the Motion to Remand in order for this Court to consider Defendant's contentions in his Second Amended Motion for Postconviction Relief in the first instance.[5]Accordingly, this is the Court's decision on Defendant's Second Amended Motion for Postconviction Relief ("Second Amended Motion"), supplementing the Court's June 7, 2017 Order addressing Defendant's First Amended Motion for Postconviction Relief.

         3. As summarized in the State's Motion to Remand, the amended claims in the Second Amended Motion are as follows: (1) "ineffective assistance of trial counsel alleging counsel lacked the experience necessary to provide representation in a 'high profile case;' (2) 'vexation' with prior trial counsel who was relieved of his duty to represent Stanford prior to the entry of the plea; (3) a violation of Stanford's Fourth Amendment rights because the police contacted Stanford 'at the threshold of [his] residence' without indications that the officers had safety concerns for the occupants, residents or officers; (4) his plea agreement was entered under duress; (5) Officer Linus committed 'perjury;' and (6) ineffective assistance of trial counsel because counsel 'withheld' photographs of the residence from Stanford."[6] Claims Three and Six of Defendant's Second Amended Motion were addressed in the Court's June 7, 2017 Order.[7] The Court incorporates its ruling as to those claims by reference in this Order.

         Discussion

         4. Rule 61 is the exclusive remedy for persons "in custody under a sentence of this court seeking to set aside the judgment of conviction. . . ."[8] This Court "must first consider the procedural requirements of Rule 61 before addressing any substantive issues."[9] The procedural "bars" of Rule 61 are: timeliness, [10] repetitiveness, [11] procedural default, [12] and former adjudication.[13] If any of these bars apply, the movant must show entitlement to relief under Rule 61(i)(5).[14] The contentions in a Rule 61 motion must be considered on a "claim-by-claim" basis.[15]

         Procedural Bars

         5. As stated above, Claims Three and Six of Defendant's Second Amended Motion were previously addressed in the Court's earlier Order denying Defendant's First Amended Motion. Therefore, for the reasons stated in the Court's earlier Order, Claims Three and Six of Defendant's Second Amended Motion are denied.[16]

         6. Turning to the remaining claims in the Second Amended Motion, Claim One states a different basis for ineffective assistance of counsel: the inexperience of trial counsel. This claim is not procedurally barred and will be addressed in greater detail on its merits below.

         7. Claim Two, under the caption "vexation/prejudice, " states: "At the withdraw of counsel hearing which took place September 28, 2016 Public Defender Joseph Leager was only consented [sic] to resign from case while doing so [sic] Mr. Leager put in for a speedy trail [sic] without consent because defendant wish[ed] to terminate counsel."[17] As vexatious as this sentence is, the gist of the contention is that his former counsel-predating his trial counsel who represented him at the time of his guilty plea-was allowed to withdraw as counsel without first obtaining Defendant's consent to waive his right to speedy trial. This claim is barred under Rule 61(i)(3) as procedurally defaulted because it could have been raised in the "proceedings leading to the judgment of conviction. . . ."[18] "The only remedy for a violation of the right to speedy trial is dismissal of the indictment."[19] When Defendant pleaded guilty to the charges in the indictment, he waived the right to argue that his right to speedy trial was denied.[20] As such, Claim Two is barred as procedurally defaulted.[21]

         8. Claim Four asserts that he was forced to enter into the plea under duress. This claim is barred under Rule 61(i)(4) ("former adjudication"). Defendant filed a Rule 35(b) motion following his sentence asserting, among other grounds, that he was given an "ultimatum" to either "go to trail [sic] with representation that [he] was uncomfortable with, go to trail [sic] unprepared pro se, or take a guilty plea that [he] feel[s] as though was unreasonable for the circumstances that was only favorable to the State. . ., "[22] The Court rejected this claim, noting that there was no "duress" where the agreement reached between Defendant and the State was merely a function of the "give-and-take" process of plea-bargaining.[23] Quoting Bordenkircher v. Hayes, [24] the Court noted that the "acceptance of the basic legitimacy of plea bargaining necessarily implies rejection of any notion that a guilty plea is involuntary in a constitutional sense simply because it is the end result of the bargaining process."[25] Defendant's contention in his Second Amended Motion rehashes this same basis for relief and, as such, it is barred as formerly adjudicated in his Rule 35(b) motion.[26]

         9. Finally, Claim Five, entitled "perjury/persuasion/ineffective [assistance of] counsel, " asserts that a police officer at the suppression hearing "made some contradicting statements" and misrepresented other facts about Defendant.[27] The Court finds that Defendant's claim that there were false statements in the affidavit of probable cause and false testimony at the suppression hearing is barred under Rule 61(i)(3) as procedurally defaulted. Defendant waived his right to challenge the accuracy of the police's account of the charges when he entered his guilty plea and forwent trial. Claim Five also states that his trial counsel did not "challenge or object" to these alleged misrepresentations. The Court will address this portion of Claim Five below on its merits.

         10. In summation, Claims Two, Three, Four, and Five (except as to his ineffective assistance of counsel claim in Claim Five) are procedurally barred under Rule 61(i). Defendant must satisfy Rule 61(i)(5) to obtain relief from the procedural bars as applied to these claims. Rule 61(i)(5) states: "The [procedural bars] shall not apply either to a claim that the court lacked jurisdiction or to a claim that satisfies the pleading requirements of subparagraphs (2)(i) or (2)(ii) of subdivision (d) of this rule."[28] Rule 61(d)(2) requires Defendant to either: "(i) plead[] with particularity that new evidence exists that creates a strong inference that the movant is actually innocent in fact of the acts underlying the charges of which he was convicted; or (ii) plead[] with particularity" the applicability of a new retroactive rule of constitutional law.[29] Rule 61(d)(2)(ii) is inapplicable to the Second Amended Motion. Further, Defendant has not shown any new evidence creating a strong inference of actual innocence in fact of the charges for which he pleaded guilty under Rule 61(d)(2)(i). Therefore, Claims Two, Three, Four, and Five (except as stated above for Claim Five) are procedurally barred and this Court will not consider the merits of these claims.

         Summary Dismissal

         11. Rule 61(d)(5) states that, if "it plainly appears from the motion for postconviction relief and the record of prior proceedings in the case that the movant is not entitled to relief, the judge may enter an order for its summary dismissal and cause the movant to be notified."[30] The Court will apply each of Defendant's remaining claims to this provision to determine whether any or all of the claims should be summarily dismissed.

         12. Defendant's three remaining claims assert ineffective assistance of counsel. Specifically, he attacks the professional experience of his trial counsel, his trial counsel's failure to challenge or object to alleged misrepresentations at the suppression hearing and in the affidavit of probable cause, and his trial counsel's failure to produce certain photographs that could have been used at the suppression hearing. The Court has previously addressed this latter contention in its earlier Order. The Court incorporates by reference that finding here without further explication.[31]

         13. Defendant's remaining ineffective assistance of counsel claims are analyzed under the rubric of Strickland v. Washington?[3[32] As described in this Court's earlier Order, Strickland established a two-part test for such claims: the defendant must show that, (1) "counsel's performance was objectively ...


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