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State v. Boyer

Superior Court of Delaware, Sussex

December 8, 2017

State of Delaware
v.
Paris Boyer

          DATE SUBMITTED: October 26, 2017

          Steven W. Welsh, Esq.

          Casey L. Ewert, Esq.

         Dear Mr. Boyer:

         Defendant Paris Boyer ("Defendant") has filed his first Motion for Postconviction Relief pursuant to Superior Court Criminal Rule 61 ("Rule 61").[1] For the reasons expressed below the motion DENIED.

         From November 30, 2015 to December 7, 2015, Defendant went to trial for the charges in case # 1409003291 A. The verdict was mixed. Defendant was found guilty of one count of Second Degree Conspiracy, two counts of Theft less than $ 1, 500.00, one count of Theft by False Pretenses less than $1, 500.00, and one count of Third Degree Burglary. The jury either acquitted Defendant or was hung on the remaining charges. Rather than retrying the case, the parties agreed to resolve all of Defendant's pending charges by a plea deal. On January 22, 2016, Defendant pled guilty to three counts of Third Degree Burglary, one count of Possession of Burglary Tools, and one count of Theft less than $1, 500.00 from a Senior. As part of the plea agreement, Defendant agreed to be sentenced under 11 Del. C. § 4214(a) as a habitual offender for one of the Third Degree Burglary charges. On March 18, 2016, after review of the pre-sentence investigation, Defendant was sentenced to 15 years at Level Five as a habitual offender for one Third Degree Burglary charge. He received probation for the remaining charges. Defendant appealed his sentence to the Delaware Supreme Court. On November 29, 2016, the Supreme Court mandate was filed, finalizing the conviction.

         On October 26, 2017, Defendant filed his first Motion for Postconviction Relief. He makes three claims: (1) that the plea he took with regard to the B and C portions of his charges[2] also included charges from the A case for which he had been convicted by the jury; (2) that trial counsel did not inform him that he was waiving his trial and appeal rights by taking the plea, making it so the plea was not entered into knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently; and (3) that the Superior Court's denial of his Motion to Suppress was contrary to law.

         The first step in evaluating a motion under Rule 61 is to determine whether any of the procedural bars listed in Rule 61(i) will force the motion to be procedurally barred.[3] The first two arguments Defendant advances are not procedurally barred. However, his third argument, that the denial of his Motion to Suppress was contrary to law is barred by Rule 16(i)(4). If a ground for relief was formerly adjudicated, it cannot be asserted in a motion for postconviction relief. This includes decisions that were made in the proceedings leading to the judgment of conviction. Thus, the legality of Judge M. Jane Brady's denial of Defendant's Motion to Suppress on April 2, 2015 cannot be considered here.

         Defendant's first argument is that some of the charges he pled to after he was convicted by a jury in the A case are the same as those to which he later pled guilty. The fact that Defendant was convicted of one count of Burglary in the Third Degree by the jury and then later pled to three counts of Burglary in the Third Degree does not mean that he was convicted twice for the same offense. These charges did not arise out of the same facts, as is shown in the indictments for both cases. Therefore, Defendant was not convicted of the same crime twice. His argument for postconviction relief on this basis fails.

         Defendant also argued that trial counsel did not inform him that he was waiving his trial and appeal rights by taking a plea. As a result, Defendant asserts that he did not enter his plea knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily. This is, essentially, an ineffective assistance of counsel claim. To prevail on such a claim, Defendant must meet the two-prong test laid out by the United States Supreme Court in Strickland v. Washington[4] Somerville v. State laid out the applicable standard in the context of a guilty plea:

Strickland requires a defendant to show that: (1) counsel's representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness, and (2) counsel's actions were so prejudicial that there was a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's errors, the defendant would not have pleaded guilty and would have insisted on going to trial...[R]eview is subject to a strong presumption that counsel's conduct was professionally reasonable. The purpose of this presumption is to eliminate the distorting effects of hindsight in examining a strategic course of conduct that may have been within the range of professional reasonableness at the time.[5]

         Defendant argues ineffective assistance of counsel based upon the assertion that he was unaware that taking a plea would take away his ability to challenge the previous suppression decision. If he had known this information, Defendant would not have agreed to the plea deal. The Court is not persuaded by this argument. Examination of the plea colloquy shows that. Defendant was not misled regarding his trial and appeal rights, and that he was satisfied with his legal representation. The relevant portion of the plea colloquy reads as follows:

MR. WELSH: Mr. Boyer understands that by pleading guilty today he waives any rights to appeal that he would have had under the charges that he was found guilty of at trial, as well as any suppression issues that he previously waived.
* * *
THE COURT: Nobody can force you to plead guilty, sir, because when you do that, you incriminate yourself and you lose valuable trial and appeal rights and you expose yourself to the penalties of law. Do you understand that?
THE DEFENDANT: Yes, sir.
THE COURT: Is anybody forcing you to ...

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