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Anderson v. State

Supreme Court of Delaware

February 8, 2018

NATHANIEL ANDERSON, Defendant Below, Appellant,
STATE OF DELAWARE, Plaintiff Below, Appellee.

          Submitted: November 20, 2017

         Court Below-Superior Court of the State of Delaware Cr. ID No.30306671DI (N)

          Before VALIHURA, VAUGHN, and SEITZ, Justices.


          James T. Vaughn. Jr. Justice.

         This 8th day of February 2018, upon consideration of the appellant's opening brief, the appellee's motion to affirm, and the Superior Court record, it appears to the Court that:

         (1) The appellant, Nathaniel Anderson, was convicted and sentenced in 1994 on two counts of unlawful sexual intercourse first degree. The convictions were affirmed on direct appeal.[1] This appeal is from the Superior Court's denial of Anderson's fifth motion for postconviction relief under Superior Court Criminal Rule 61.

         (2) In his fifth motion for postconviction relief, Anderson challenged the validity of an FBI analyst's trial testimony concerning pubic hair evidence collected from Anderson and the victim. Anderson alleged that there was "no valid research for the State's expert to have reached his conclusion, connecting defendant's hair to the victim."[2]

         (3) Anderson purported to support his allegation with a copy of a letter dated September 30, 2014, from the U.S. Department of Justice to the Delaware Attorney General. The letter concerned the Department of Justice's nationwide review of pre-1999 convictions where FBI analysts had provided faulty hair comparison testimony. In its original form, the September 30, 2014 letter identified a Delaware case where a defendant's convictions were based on flawed hair analysis evidence. In the copy of the letter submitted by Anderson, however, the defendant's name and criminal action number were redacted.

         (4) Based upon Anderson's apparent representation that the letter from the U.S. Department of Justice applied to his case, the Superior Court granted Anderson's motion for appointment of postconviction counsel. After the appointment of postconviction counsel, the prosecutor in Anderson's trial served and filed a letter informing the Superior Court of recent inquiries he had made to the U.S. Department of Justice about the September 30, 2014 letter. Based upon the Department's response to his inquiries, the prosecutor advised the court and postconviction counsel that Anderson's case was not in the FBI database of cases involving improper hair comparison analysis, and that the Department's September 30, 2014 letter did not concern Anderson.

         (5) In January 2017, Anderson's postconviction counsel filed a motion to withdraw and supporting memorandum under Rule 61(e).[3] Postconviction counsel stated that, after conducting a thorough analysis of the record, he could find no grounds to seek postconviction relief. In the supporting memorandum, postconviction counsel explained that Anderson's challenge to the validity of the hair comparison evidence was not supported in the record because the FBI analyst's trial testimony did not connect Anderson's hair to the victim, as Anderson had claimed. Instead, the FBI analyst testified that the hair evidence examined in Anderson's case revealed no transfer of hair between Anderson and the victim.

         (6) On April 20, 2017, the Superior Court issued an order denying Anderson's motion for postconviction relief as procedurally barred under Rule 61(i).[4] The court also granted postconviction counsel's motion to withdraw. On appeal, we find it manifest that the Superior Court's judgment should be affirmed on the basis of the court's well-reasoned decision dated April 20, 2017.[5]

         (7) Considerable judicial, prosecutorial, and defense resources were needed to ensure that Anderson's claim of error was properly investigated and evaluated. In the end, Anderson's claim was found to be patently frivolous. We advise Anderson to be mindfiil in the future that, under Rule 61(j), when an unsuccessful postconviction movant has brought a claim "so completely lacking in factual support or legal basis as to be insubstantial, " the Superior Court may, upon motion, require the movant to reimburse the state for costs and expenses paid from public funds.[6]

         NOW, THEREFORE, IT IS ORDERED that the motion to affirm is GRANTED. The judgment ...

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