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State v. Godwin

Superior Court of Delaware, Kent

October 17, 2017


         RK12-11-0643-01 Ddeal AF (F)

         RK12-11-0644-01 Consp. 2nd (F)

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

          Stephen R. Welch, Jr., Esq., Deputy Attorney General, Department of Justice, for the State of Delaware.

          Patrick J. Collins, Esquire, Collins and Associates, Wilmington, Delaware for Defendant.


          Andrea M Freud Commissioner.

         The defendant, Seanne M. Godwin ("Godwin") was found guilty, following a jury trial on December 18, 2013, as charged, of one count of Drug Dealing with Aggravating Factors, 16 Del. C. § 4753(2); and one count of Conspiracy in the Second Degree, 11 Del. C. § 512. A presentence investigation was ordered by the Court. The State filed a motion to declare Godwin an habitual offender. On February 26, 2014 the Court granted the State's motion and declared Godwin an habitual offender and sentenced him to mandatory life in prison. A timely Notice of Appeal was filed by Trial Counsel along with a motion to withdraw as counsel. The Delaware Supreme Court granted Trial Counsel's motion to withdraw and appointed Patrick J. Collins, Esq. ("Appointed Counsel") to represent Godwin on appeal.

         On Appeal Appointed Counsel raised the following grounds as noted by the Delaware Supreme Court in its opinion:

(1) ... Godwin raises four claims on appeal. First, Godwin argues that his trial counsel was ineffective by failing to file a motion to suppress evidence based on a theory of an improper search and seizure., Second, Godwin contends that the trial court erred when it denied his motion for a mistrial due to an improper comment made by the State in its opening argument. Third, Godwin claims that his trial counsel was ineffective by failing to move for a mistrial after the State introduced testimony regarding his history of drug dealing. Fourth, Godwin contends that his trial counsel was ineffective by failing to question a State witness regarding his plea agreement.[1]

         The Supreme Court, on June 30, 2015, affirmed Godwin's conviction and sentence.[2] In its order the court held, concerning Godwin's three claims of ineffective assistance of counsel that:

(8) The narrow exception to the rule that would allow us to consider Godwin's claims of ineffective assistance of counsel on direct appeal is inapplicable here. The alleged ineffective assistance of Godwin's counsel is far from 'clearly reflected in the Superior Court Proceedings.FN4 We find that these allegations would be better considered in a Superior Court Rule 61 post-conviction proceeding. Accordingly, we deny Godwin's request to consider the merit of these claims.[3]
FN4 Cooke, 977 A.2d at 848.

         As to Godwin's claim that the Court erred in not granting the motion for a mistrial, the Court found the claim meritless and that Godwin suffered no prejudice. Next Godwin filed a pro se motion for postconviction relief pursuant to Superior Court Criminal Rule 61. The Court appointed Mr. Collins ("Appointed Counsel") to represent Godwin in his postconviction motion. Prior to the motion being filed, the State offered to agree to Godwin being resentenced because the mandatory life sentence for the charge was excessive. The State however requested that Godwin withdraw his Rule 61 motion. Subsequently the General Assembly passed 11 Del. C. § 4214(f) which required resentencing in cases such as Godwin's in certain instances. Following a colloquy with the Court, Godwin decided to proceed with his Rule 61 motion and acknowledged that his resentence under 11 Del. C. § 4214(f) might not occur for some time. Next Appointed Counsel filed an amended motion for postconviction relief alleging the same three claims of ineffective counsel raised in his direct appeal.


         Following are the facts as set forth by the Delaware Supreme Court:

(2) On October 16, 2012, Godwin called Tyere Joyner and requested to meet him in Dover, Delaware in order to obtain marijuana that he could resell. Godwin and Joyner met at a Dover hotel where Joyner gave Godwin $500 worth of marijuana so that Godwin, acting as middle man, could sell the drugs for Joyner. Godwin then rode in Joyner's car to Clairfield where he was to meet an intended purchaser of the marijuana. Once the men arrived, Godwin approached the purchaser and attempted to sell him the marijuana. When the purchaser was unable to produce the money to buy the drugs, Godwin left. Soon thereafter, the purchaser called Godwin and claimed that he now had the money and wanted to set up a meeting at Mapleton Square. Godwin agreed, and he and Joyner drove to Mapleton Square. Once there, Godwin left Joyner's car and got into the purchaser's adjacent vehicle. Godwin gave the purchaser 2 ounces of marijuana, but instead of paying for the drugs, the purchaser robbed Godwin at gunpoint of the marijuana and $535 cash. He then forced Godwin out of his car and drove away. When Godwin returned to Joyner's car he informed him that he had been robbed. After picking up two other people, Godwin and Joyner began to search for the robber.
(3) The men spotted the robber, now on foot, in the area of Autumn Run Apartments. The robber ran to the front of the apartments and approached Delaware State Trooper Nicholas Ciglinsky and Corporal Alexander Argo, who were on patrol in an unmarked Tahoe SUV. The robber informed them that he was being followed by a blue Mitsubishi Lancer. Based on this information, the officers began following the vehicle. After the vehicle failed to stop at a stop sign, the officers attempted to initiate a traffic stop. The vehicle sped up despite the officers' attempt to stop the vehicle. Eventually the vehicle stopped, and the front seat passenger fled. The fleeing occupant was apprehended by Officer Ciglinsky, and subsequently identified as Kendrick Foreman. The driver was identified as Joyner and the other passengers were identified as Godwin and Kelvin Davis.
(4) Once the occupants of the vehicle were secured, the officers conducted a search of the vehicle and found marijuana in the trunk as well as a handgun under the front passenger seat. After being arrested, Godwin provided a statement to police admitting that he and Joyner had attempted to sell marijuana that day, and that he had been robbed by the potential purchaser. He also admitted that they were searching for the robber when the police attempted to stop the vehicle. He denied any knowledge of the handgun found in the vehicle. Godwin was indicted on charges of Drug Dealing and Conspiracy Second Degree.
(5) Godwin was tried in December 2013. In its opening statement, the State mentioned that a handgun was found under Foreman's seat. Godwin's counsel objected and requested a mistrial, which the trial court denied. In order to clarify the alleged improper statement, the State explained that the handgun belonged to Foreman and that Godwin was unaware that it was in the car. Joyner, Officer Ciglinsky, and Corporal Argo testified for the State. The State also introduced Godwin's recorded statement as evidence. Godwin declined to testify. The jury returned a verdict finding Godwin guilty of both charged offenses. Due to Godwin's status as a habitual offender under 11 Del. C. § 4214(b), he was sentenced to life in prison.[4]


         In the amended motion, Appointed Counsel raises three grounds for relief:

Ground one: Trial Counsel was ineffective for failing to file a motion to suppress the evidence and Mr. Godwin's statement, resulting in prejudice to Mr. Godwin.
Ground two: Mr. Godwin was prejudiced by assistance of counsel when his lawyer failed to seek a mistrial when the state introduced evidence of prior bad acts.
Ground three: Trial Counsel was ineffective for failing to impeach the State's main witness with evidence of his plea deal with the State, resulting in prejudice to Mr. Godwin.


         Under Delaware law, the Court must first determine whether Godwin has met the procedural requirements of Superior Court Criminal Rule 61(i) before it may consider the merits of the postconviction relief claims.[5] Under Rule 61, postconviction claims for relief must be brought within one year of the conviction becoming final.[6] Godwin's initial pro se motion was filed in a timely fashion, thus the bar of Rule 61(i)(1) does not apply to the motion. As this is Godwin's initial motion for postconviction relief, the bar of Rule 61(i)(2), which prevents consideration of any claim not previously asserted in a postconviction motion, does not apply either.

         Grounds for relief not asserted in the proceedings leading to judgment of conviction are thereafter barred unless the movant demonstrates: (1) cause for relief from the procedural default; and (2) prejudice from a violation of the movant's rights.[7]The bars to relief are inapplicable to a jurisdictional challenge or "to a colorable claim that there was a miscarriage of justice because of a constitutional violation that undermined the fundamental legality, reliability, integrity or fairness of the proceedings leading to the judgment of conviction."[8]

         Each of Godwin's grounds for relief are premised on allegations of ineffective assistance of counsel and were raised on his direct appeal but the Delaware Supreme Court ruled they should be reviewed by this Court initially. Therefore Godwin has alleged sufficient cause for not having asserted these grounds for relief at trial. He did raise the claims on direct appeal. Godwin's ineffective assistance of counsel claims are not subject to the procedural default rule, in part because the Delaware Supreme Court will not generally hear such claims for the first time on direct appeal. To succeed on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, a movant must engage in the two part analysis enunciated in Strickland v. Washington[9] and adopted by the Delaware Supreme Court in Albury v. State[10]

         The Strickland test requires the movant show that counsel's errors were so grievous that his performance fell below an objective standard of reasonableness.[11]Second, under Strickland the movant must show there is a reasonable degree of probability that but for counsel's unprofessional error the outcome of the proceedings would have been different, that is, actual prejudice.[12] In setting forth a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, a defendant must make and substantiate concrete allegations of actual prejudice or risk summary dismissal.[13]

         Generally, a claim for ineffective assistance of counsel fails unless both prongs of the test have been established.[14] However, the showing of prejudice is so central to this claim that the Strickland court stated "[i]f it is easier to dispose of an ineffectiveness claim on the ground of lack of sufficient prejudice, which we expect will often be so, that course should be followed."[15] In other words, if the Court finds that there is no possibility of prejudice even if a defendant's allegations regarding counsel's representation were true, the Court may dispose of the claim on this basis alone.[16] Furthermore, Godwin must rebut a "strong presumption" that trial counsel's representation fell within the "wide range of reasonable professional assistance, " and this Court must eliminate from its consideration the "distorting effects of hindsight when viewing that representation."[17]

         Turning to Godwin's first ground for relief, he claims that his counsel was ineffective for failing to file a motion to suppress the evidence and Godwin's statement. As Trial Counsel makes clear in his affidavit:

With regard to the claim that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to file a motion to suppress evidence and Mr. Godwin's statement, prior to trial, counsel considered potential grounds for suppression and determined that the factual circumstances did not support any constitutional claims for suppression of evidence. Specifically, undersigned counsel relied on the probable cause affidavit and the circumstances of the stop, search, detention, and arrest.[18]

         Specifically the affidavit of probable cause reads in pertinent part:

3. While attempting to make contact with the suspect vehicle, the vehicle bearing DE Registration 318303 attempted to avoid us by speeding up and ran the stop sign at Post Blvd. And Kesselring Ave. and Kesselring Ave. to S. Governors Ave.
4. While pursuing the suspect vehicle Cpl/1 Argo activated his emergency equipment to signal the suspect vehicle to pull off of the roadway, however the suspect vehicle proceeded without stopping.
5. As the suspect vehicle turned off of S. Governors Ave. and onto Webbs Lane the vehicle came to a stop on Webbs Lane in the area of Autumn Run Apartments. As the suspect vehicle stopped, DEF-Foreman, Kendrick J (DOB 2/17/90) exited out of the passenger side of the vehicle and proceeded to run from the vehicle.
6. I [Trooper Ciglinsky] made contact with DEF-Foreman and not far from the suspect vehicle and arrested him on contact. He was positively identified by his DE drivers license, bearing # 1554339.
7. Def-Godwin Seanne (DOB 11/20/83) was also located inside the suspect vehicle in the rear passenger seat.[19]

         Clearly based on the probable cause affidavit the police alleged that the suspect vehicle failed to stop at a stop sign and continued to flee from the police. Thus the initial reason for the motor vehicle stop[20] was valid. Furthermore the act of fleeing by Godwin's co-defendant gave the police additional reason along with the previously noted allegation by the "robber" who told the police he was being followed gave the police ample reason to search the vehicle and subsequently arrest the occupants leading to Godwin's confession. The following are excerpts of testimony from the preliminary hearing and trial and the statement made by the co-defendant.

         From the testimony of Trooper Ciglinsky at the preliminary hearing:

A. Basically I was on patrol with GTF [Governor's Task Force], Troop 3 GTF, and we were in Autumn Run Apartments. We were looking for vehicles, suspicious vehicles.
We were flagged down by a passerby in the area. He came up to us and pointed out a suspect vehicle. We went after the suspect vehicle. We came out onto Webb's Lane from Autumn Run Apartments, got behind it. We were just checking it out a little bit and we noticed ...

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