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State v. Sykes

Superior Court of Delaware, Kent

December 7, 2017

AMBROSE L. SYKES, Defendant.

          Submitted: October 11, 2017

         Upon Defendant's Amended Second Motion for Postconviction Relief. Denied.

          John Williams, Esquire and Stephen R. Welch, Jr., Esquire of the Department of Justice, Dover, Delaware; attorneys for the State.

          Herbert W. Mondros, Esquire of Margolis Edelstein, Wilmington, Delaware and Samuel J.B. Angell, Esquire of the Federal Community Defender Office, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; attorneys for the Defendant.

          Herbert W. Mondros, Esquire, Samuel J.B. Angell, Esquire, John Williams, Esquire, Stephen R. Welch, Jr., Esquire


          Hon. William L. Witham, Jr. Resident Judge.

         Before the Court is the Petitioner, Ambrose L. Sykes', Amended Second Motion for Postconviction Relief. Sykes raises a number of grounds for relief from his 2006 conviction for Murder in the First Degree, Rape in the First Degree, and other related offenses, and relief from this Court's subsequent imposition of a life sentence. The majority of Sykes' claims for relief are based on allegations of ineffective assistance of postconviction counsel against Sykes' two postconviction attorneys, Patrick Collins and Albert J. Roop, V (hereinafter, "Rule 61 Counsel").

         After careful consideration of the parties' filings and review of recent Delaware precedent, the Court concludes that Sykes' Amended Second Motion for Postconviction Relief must be summarily DENIED pursuant to Superior Court Criminal Rule 61(d)(2).


         The facts of this case have been thoroughly set forth on a variety of occasions by this Court, as well as the Delaware Supreme Court.[2] The following is the statement of facts contained in the Delaware Supreme Court's opinion on direct appeal and its opinion affirming this Court's denial of postconviction relief:

On November 8, 2004, sixty-eight-year-old Virginia Trimnell was scheduled to fly from Washington, D.C. to Detroit to visit her daughter.
When Trimnell did not arrive as scheduled, her daughter contacted the Dover Police Department. Officer Jeffrey Gott went to check on Trimnell. Gott testified that when he arriv[ed] at Trimnell's apartment, it was tidy and undisturbed and he observed no signs of forced entry. He also testified that he saw two shopping bags sitting on the bed. However, he could not locate Trimnell's car or purse.
At approximately 3:30 a.m. on November 10, 2004, Dover Police Sergeant Timothy Mutter saw Trimnell's car traveling on Kings Highway in Dover. The driver, later identified as Sykes, got out of the vehicle, and Mutter asked him for his license and registration. Sykes initially complied but then fled after Mutter asked about Trimnell. The police could not apprehend Sykes that night.
Police found Sykes' fingerprints on a shovel and a rubber glove inside Trimnell's car. The police also found three gas cans and women's clothing that matched what others saw Trimnell wearing on the day she disappeared. In the trunk of the vehicle, police found a large green suitcase with Trimnell's name and Trimnell's purse inside a green duffel bag. Police found TrimnelPs body stuffed into the large green suitcase.
An autopsy indicated that Trimnell died by strangulation. A sexual assault kit detected sperm in TrimnelPs vagina. The autopsy did not, however, reveal any defense wounds on Trimnell. DNA testing was conducted. Sykes' saliva reference sample was ultimately determined to match all sixteen loci from Trimnell's vaginal swab. Sykes' DNA also matched the sperm located on a comforter found in Trimnell's trunk.
Police seized a computer during a search of Trimnell's apartment. An examination of that computer revealed that it had been used to access pornographic websites on November 7, 2004. Trimnell's credit cards had been used to access the website[s]. That computer had not been previously used to visit similar websites. Police also seized two pornographic magazines and four computers from Sykes' mobile home. Files on two of those computers contained "similar images of adult pornography" to those found on Trimnell's computer. Additionally, police found a leather bag containing silver dollars in the home of Sykes' girlfriend, Jenny St. Jean. Trimnell's daughter later identified the bag as Trimnell's.
Trimnell's telephone records revealed that a cell phone registered to Sykes made three calls to her home on the morning of November 7, 2004. Sykes, a night shift restaurant custodian at Dover Downs, did not work on November 7, 2004. He quit this job on November 8, 2004 due to alleged transportation problems. After he quit his job, Dover Downs security cameras showed him leaving the parking lot on November 8, 2004 in Trimnell's car.
Police arrested Sykes on November 29, 2004 and the State later indicted him on two counts of Murder First Degree and other felony and misdemeanor charges. The State later re-indicted him and added two counts of Rape First Degree.[3]

         On June 27, 2006, Sykes was convicted on all counts. He was sentenced to death on September 20, 2006.

         On January 24, 2008, after a brief remand to this Court, the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed Sykes' conviction and sentence to death.[4]

         On October 24, 2008, Sykes, represented by Rule 61 Counsel, timely filed his First Motion for Postconviction Relief. On October 19, 2009, Sykes filed an Amended First Motion for Postconviction Relief in which he raised twenty-three separate claims for relief. Beginning October 10, 2011 and concluding on November 7, 2012, the Court held an extensive evidentiary hearing over the course of eleven days.[5] Twenty-one witnesses, including trial counsel, testified during the hearing. An additional three witnesses, who did not testify, were deposed. And, the Court admitted more than forty exhibits into evidence. Post hearing briefing concluded on August 12, 2013.

         On January 21, 2014, the Court issued its ninety-eight page decision denying Sykes' Amended First Motion for Postconviction Relief. The Delaware Supreme Court affirmed the denial of relief on January 30, 2015.

         On January 11, 2016, Sykes filed his Second Motion for Postconviction Relief. Sykes amended the motion on May 10, 2017, after the Court re-sentenced Sykes pursuant to the Delaware Supreme ...

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