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State v. Benitez

Superior Court of Delaware, Kent

October 6, 2017

STATE OF DELAWARE
v.
JUAN C. BENITEZ, Defendant.

          Submitted: August 14, 2017

         Upon Consideration of Defendant's Motion for Postconviction Relief Pursuant to Superior Court Criminal Rule 61 RK-07-0012-01 Trf. Co. > 100 GR (F) RK-07-0015-01 Consp. 2nd (F) RK-09-0544-01 Del. NSII CS (F) RK-09-0548-01 Consp. 2nd (F)

          Kathleen A. Dickerson, Esq., Department of Justice, Dover, Delaware. Attorney for the State.

          Juan C. Benitez, Pro se.

          ORDER

          WILLIAM L. WITHAM, JR RESIDENT JUDGE.

         Upon consideration of Juan C. Benitez's ("Benitez") Motion For Postconviction Relief, Amended Motion for Postconviction Relief, Defense Counsel's Affidavit, the State's response, and the record in this case, it appears:

Benitez pled guilty to one count of Trafficking Cocaine > 100 grams, two counts of Conspiracy in the Second Degree, and one count of Delivery of a Narcotic Schedule II Controlled Substance, Cocaine on April 4, 2011. He was immediately sentenced in accordance with the recommendations in the Plea Agreement to forty-four years at Level V, suspended after serving eight years minimum mandatory followed by probation.[1] Benitez filed two motions to modify his sentence in 2011 which were denied on July 14, 2011 and August 18, 2011. Next on February 11, 2015 Benitez filed a Motion for Postconviction Relief, pro se. He alleges two grounds for relief including ineffective assistance of counsel. On May 20, 2016 Benitez filed an "Amended Motion for Postconviction Relief: Supplement of record in Postconviction of newly Discovered Evidence regarding OCME [Office of Chief Medical Examiner] Scandal." The motion and amended motion were set on a briefing schedule. On June 1, 2017 Benitez was ordered to Level III probation. On July 5, 2017 he was deported to the Dominican Republic. On July 17, 2017, the Court approved Probation and Parole's request to discharge Benitez.

         Under Delaware law the Court must first determine whether Benitez has met the procedural requirements of Superior Court Criminal Rule 61(i) before it may consider the merits of the postconviction relief claims.[2] Before reaching the procedural bars to relief listed in Rule 61(i), a threshold issue must be addressed. Rule 61(a)(1) "governs the procedure on an application by a person in custody or subject to future custody under a sentence" at the Superior Court.[3] The Delaware Supreme Court has explained that a person loses standing to move for postconviction relief under Rule 61 where the defendant is not in custody or subject to future custody for the underlying offense or challenged sentence.[4] Clearly Benitez is no longer in custody or subject to future custody under the sentence as he has been discharged from probation and has also been deported from the country, therefore he clearly lacks standing to pursue his claim for relief under Rule 61. Thus there is no need to reach the merits of Benitiz's claims.

         Additionally, the pending motion was filed more than one year after his conviction became final. Thus pursuant to Superior Court Criminal Rule 61(i)(1), Benitez's motion is time-barred unless he successfully "asserts a retroactively applicable right that is newly recognized after the judgment of conviction is final."[5]Benitez makes no attempt to allege such a right therefore his motion is clearly procedurally barred by Rule 61(i)(1). Benitez simply claims that he only recently became aware that the OCME scandal impacted his case. This is not sufficient to overcome the procedural bar.

         Accordingly, I find that Benitez's motion for postconviction relief is summarily DISMISSED for lack of standing pursuant to Superior Court Criminal Rule 61 (a)(1) and procedurally time-barred pursuant to Superior Court Criminal Rule 61(i)(1).

         IT IS SO ORDERED.

---------

Notes:

[1] The docket reflects that a Court interpreter was present for the plea and sentencing. State v. Benitez, Del. Super., ID No. ...


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