JAMES R. SIMMERS, Defendant Below-Appellant,
STATE OF DELAWAR, Plaintiff Below-Appellee.
Submitted: August 11, 2017
Below-Superior Court of the State of Delaware Cr. ID
STRINE, Chief Justice; SEITZ and TRAYNOR, Justices.
F. Traynor Justice.
25th day of September 2017, upon consideration of
the parties' briefs and the record on appeal, it appears
to the Court that:
appellant, James Simmers, filed this appeal from the Superior
Court's denial of his first motion for postconviction
relief. We find no merit to the issues Simmers raises on
appeal. Thus, we affirm the Superior Court's judgment.
Superior Court jury convicted Simmers in October 2014 of two
counts of Rape in the Fourth Degree and one count of Indecent
Exposure in the Second Degree. The State presented evidence
that Simmers went into a wooded area with a developmentally
challenged young woman and digitally penetrated her vagina
and her anus without consent and exposed himself to her.
After the jury rendered its verdict, Simmers filed a motion
for a new trial, which the Superior Court denied. The
Superior Court sentenced Simmers to a total period of twenty
years and thirty days at Level V incarceration, to be
suspended after serving six years and thirty days in prison
for decreasing levels of supervision. Simmers' sole issue
on direct appeal challenged the Superior Court's denial
of his motion for new trial. We affirmed the Superior
Simmers filed his first timely motion for postconviction
relief under Superior Court Criminal Rule 61 in November
2015. The Superior Court granted Simmers' motion for the
appointment of counsel but later granted counsel's motion
to withdraw under Rule 61(e)(6). Simmers' motion raised
various claims challenging the sufficiency of the evidence,
the credibility of the witnesses, the conduct of the State,
and the performance of his trial and appellate attorneys.
After obtaining affidavits from Simmer's trial counsel
and appellate counsel and receiving the State's response,
the Superior Court denied Simmers' motion, finding his
claims to be without merit. This appeal followed.
appeal, Simmers raises the same claims that he argued in the
Superior Court. This Court reviews the Superior Court's
denial of postconviction relief for an abuse of
discretion. To the extent a party raises questions of
law or constitutional violations, those questions will be
reviewed de novo. However, this Court must first consider
the procedural requirements of Rule 61 "before
addressing the merits of claims made in postconviction
Rule 61(i)(4) provides that "any ground for relief that
was formerly adjudicated ... is thereafter
barred." In this case, Simmers' suggestion that
the State engaged in misconduct by failing to reveal
exculpatory evidence about the victim until just before trial
was raised and rejected by the Superior Court in considering
Simmers' motion for a new trial,  a decision that was affirmed
by this Court on direct appeal. We do not need to reconsider the
underlying merits of this previously adjudicated claim.
Moreover, as the State points out, Simmers did not challenge
the sufficiency of the evidence or the credibility of the
witnesses in his motion for new trial or on direct appeal.
Thus, his arguments are barred by Rule 61(i)(3) unless
Simmers can establish cause for relief from this procedural
default and prejudice from a violation of his
Superior Court treated Simmers' challenge to the
sufficiency of the State's evidence as a claim that both
his trial and appellate counsel were ineffective for failing
to raise the claim in the Superior Court or on direct appeal.
In considering this claim, as well as Simmers' other
claims of ineffective assistance of counsel, the Superior
Court applied the Strickland standard, which
requires a petitioner to demonstrate that: (a) counsel's
conduct fell below an objective standard of reasonableness;
and (b) there is a reasonable probability that, but for
counsel's unprofessional errors, the outcome of the trial
would have been different.
this case, the Superior Court carefully considered each of
Simmers' claims of ineffective assistance and found that
all of the alleged errors were, in fact, objectively
reasonable strategic decisions made by counsel. The Superior
Court concluded that Simmers had established neither cause
nor prejudice under Strickland.
agree. Having considered the parties' briefs and the
record on appeal, we conclude that the judgment below should
be affirmed on the basis of, and for the reasons assigned by,
the Superior Court in its well-reasoned opinion dated January