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State v. Brice

Superior Court of Delaware

November 30, 2017

STATE OF DELAWARE,
v.
MILES E. BRICE Defendant.

          Submitted: August 9, 2017

         Upon Defendant's Motion for Postconviction Relief, SUMMARILY DISMISSED. Upon Defendant's Motion for Appointment of Counsel, DENIED.

          Sean Lugg, State Prosecutor, Attorney for the State.

          Miles E. Brice, pro se.

          OPINION

          M. JANE BRADY, SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION & PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Before the Court is a Motion for Postconviction Relief and a Motion for Appointment of Counsel pursuant to Superior Court Criminal Rule 61 ("Rule 61") filed by Miles E. Brice ("Defendant") on August 9, 2017. Defendant has previously filed six Motions for Postconviction Relief, all of which were denied or summarily dismissed. The Defendant alleges a retroactively applicable right that is newly recognized. Defendant contends the issues asserted in his postconviction Motion are complex and requests the Court to appoint counsel.

         In July 2001, the grand jury indicted the Defendant, charging him with two counts of Felony Murder in the First Degree, two counts of Attempted Burglary in the Second Degree, one count of Attempted Murder in the First Degree, one count of Assault in the Second Degree, one count of Conspiracy in the First Degree, five counts of Reckless Endangering in the First Degree, and a number of related weapon offenses.[1] Trial began on December 2, 2003. The State presented evidence that, in July 2001, Defendant and a co-defendant chased an individual with whom Defendant had a feud into an apartment. Defendant and the co-defendant tried to force their way into the apartment, and Defendant, who was carrying a semi-automatic handgun, fired eleven bullets through the door, killing two individuals as well as injuring a third. After the State presented its case-in-chief, the Defendant pleaded guilty to two counts of Felony Murder in the First Degree in exchange for which the State dismissed the remaining charges and refrained from seeking the death penalty. Defendant was subsequently sentenced to two life terms. He did not file a direct appeal from his convictions or sentences.

         Defendant filed his first Motion for Postconviction Relief in January 2008. The Court summarily dismissed the Motion[2] and Defendant appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed this Court's denial, finding Defendant's first Motion was time-barred pursuant to Rule 61(i)(1), and further, that Defendant failed to establish a "fundamental fairness" exception.[3] Defendant filed a second Motion for Postconviction Relief on April 30, 2010, asserting claims of ineffective assistance of counsel based on trial counsel's alleged failure to inform Defendant of the "new" interpretation of Delaware's Felony Murder statute. The Court denied Defendant's second Motion on the ground it was procedurally barred by Rule 61(i)(4).[4] Defendant appealed and the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed the denial on January 18, 2012.[5]

         Defendant filed his third Motion for Postconviction Relief on February 10, 2012. The Court found that Defendant's claim was merely repackaging the same issue which the Court had previously addressed, and summarily dismissed the Motion.[6] The Delaware Supreme Court affirmed.[7] Defendant's fourth Motion for Postconviction Relief was also summarily dismissed, finding his claims were procedurally barred, [8] and that dismissal was also affirmed by the Delaware Supreme Court.[9]

         On November 6, 2013, Defendant filed his fifth Motion for Postconviction Relief asserting several new claims of trial counsel ineffectiveness. The Court denied the Motion on February 26, 2014.[10] The Delaware Supreme Court, again, affirmed.[11] Defendant filed his sixth Motion for Postconviction Relief and Motion for Appointment of Counsel on February 13, 2017. The Court summarily dismissed Defendant's Motion for Postconviction Relief, finding that Defendant failed to meet the pleading standard enumerated in Rule 61(d)(2), by failing to plead with particularity that new evidence exists that creates a strong inference of actual innocence or that a new rule of constitutional law, made retroactive to cases on collateral review by the United States Supreme Court or the Delaware Supreme Court, applies to his case and renders the conviction invalid.[12] Defendant did not file an appeal of that decision.

         On August 1, 2017, Defendant filed the current pro se Motion for Postconviction Relief. He claims that the decision, made on August 2, 2016 by the Delaware Supreme Court, holding the Delaware death penalty statute unconstitutional, had retroactive effect over Defendant's decision to enter a guilty plea in 2003. On August 9, 2017, Defendant filed a pro se Memorandum of Law in support of his Motion, and a Motion for Appointment of Counsel. Defendant claims that had the death penalty been unconstitutional in 2003, he "would not have pled guilty to a charge where he would receive no benefit, but would have insisted on completing his trial."[13] This is the Court's decision.

         II. DEFENDANT'S CLAIM

         Defendant claims the ruling in Rauf v. State is retroactively applicable to him. In Rauf, the Delaware Supreme Court held the Delaware death penalty statute unconstitutional because the statute allowed the sentencing judge to independently find the existence of any aggravating circumstance for weighing in the penalty phase of a capital sentencing proceeding.[14] Defendant contends that had the death penalty statute been ruled unconstitutional in 2003, when he took a plea to avoid the death penalty, he would not have taken the plea.

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Pr ...


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