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State v. Thomas

Superior Court of Delaware, Kent

October 11, 2017


         RK14-03-0599-01 Burglary 2nd (F)

         RK14-03-0600-01 Theft MV (F)

         RK14-03-0602-01 Theft<$1500 (M)

         RK14-05-0002-01 Conspiracy 2nd (F)

         Upon Defendant's Motion for Postconviction Relief Pursuant to Superior Court Criminal Rule 61

          Zachary A. George, Esq., Deputy Attorney General, Department of Justice, for the State of Delaware.

          Jeffrey W. Thomas, Pro se


          Andrea M. Freud Commissioner.

         The defendant, Jeffrey W. Thomas ("Thomas"), was found guilty on January 8, 2015 by a jury of one count of Burglary in the Second Degree, 11 Del. C. § 825; one count of Theft of a Motor Vehicle, 11 Del. C. § 841 A; one count of Conspiracy in the Second Degree, 11 Del. C. § 512; and one count of Theft, 11 Del. C. § 841. An Investigative Services Office report was ordered. On March 3, 2015 the State filed a motion to declare Thomas an habitual offender pursuant to 11 Del. C. § 4214(a). The Court granted the State's motion and declared Thomas an habitual offender. On March 12, 2015 Thomas was sentenced to a total of twenty-two years incarceration as an habitual offender, suspended for probation after serving twenty-one and a half years for varying levels of probation.

         A timely Notice of Appeal to the Delaware Supreme Court was filed. Thomas's counsel filed a brief and motion to withdraw pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 26®. In the motion to withdraw, appellate counsel represented that he conducted a conscientious review of the record and concluded that no meritorious issues existed. By letter, counsel informed Thomas of the provisions of Rule 26® and attached a copy of the motion to withdraw and accompanying brief. Thomas was informed of his right to supplement his attorney's presentation. Thomas, pro se, raised eight issues for appeal for the Supreme Court to consider, which the Supreme Court summarized as follows:

(7) Thomas fairly raises the following eight points for the Court's consideration on appeal: (I) the Superior Court erred in allowing Detective Toto to testify about what Thomas said during the videotaped interview; (ii) the Superior Court should have given a jury instruction under 11 Del. C. § 274; (iii) Thomas did not receive adequate notice of the State's habitual offender motion; (iv) the State failed to preserve evidence; (v) the indictment was defective; (vi) Thomas's statement to police was not knowing, intelligent, and voluntary; (vii) Thomas was denied the right to confront Heath, his co-defendant; and (viii) Thomas should not have been declared a habitual offender because his New Jersey convictions for third degree burglary were not qualifying predicate convictions.[1]

         The Supreme Court granted the State's motion to affirm as to all of Thomas's claims.[2] Next, Thomas, pro se, filed a Motion for Postconviction Relief pursuant to Superior Court Criminal Rule 61. In his motion, Thomas raises one ground for alleging ineffective assistance of counsel in a variety of ways.


         The following is a summary of the facts as noted by the Superior Court in its opinion on Thomas's Direct Appeal:

(3) The trial record fairly reflects that, on March 8, 2014, Dover police responded to a report of a burglary and car theft. The victim lived alone in a first floor apartment on Division Street. She told police that, sometime after she went to sleep the previous evening, someone had entered her apartment and taken her computer, cell phone, wallet, and car keys, among other things. Her car, a 2005 Nissan Sentra, was missing from where she had parked it outside her apartment. Later that morning, the victim discovered that her credit card had been used at a nearby convenience store and a Burger King restaurant. After interviewing witnesses and reviewing surveillance evidence from the two businesses, the police were able to develop Monica Heath and Thomas as suspects. At trial, the victim testified that the day before the burglary, Thomas, whom she did not know, had helped her carry groceries into her apartment. The victim never informed the police about this encounter before trial.
(4)The investigating officer, Detective Toto, interviewed Thomas on March 12, 2014 at the police station. The interview was recorded, but the recording quality was poor. At trial, Detective Toto testified that Thomas told him that he and Heath went to the apartment on Division Street and saw the victim sleeping in her bed. Thomas lifted Heath up through an open window, and Heath unlocked the front door of the apartment to let Thomas in. Thomas took the victim's car keys. The recording of Thomas's interview was admitted at trial without objection.
(5) Thomas testified in his own defense at trial. He admitted lifting Heath up through the window. He also admitted that he knew the apartment did not belong to Heath. He asserted, however, that he had never entered the apartment and that Heath drove off in the victim's car alone. He further denied that he had ever been in the apartment or helped the victim with her groceries the day before the burglary.[3]


         In his motion and amended motion, Thomas raises essentially one ground [add with subparts?] for relief captioned under "Grounds for Ineffective Assistance of Counsel:" In its response the ...

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