JAMES E. COOKE, Defendant-Below, Appellant,
STATE OF DELAWARE, Plaintiff-Below, Appellee.
Submitted: February 7, 2018
Below: Superior Court of the State of Delaware Cr. ID. No.
STRINE, Chief Justice; VAUGHN, and SEITZ, Justices.
Collins J. Seitz, Jr. Justice.
21st day of February, 2018, having considered the
briefs and the record below, it appears to the Court that:
(1) On April 13, 2012, a jury convicted James E. Cooke of two
counts of first degree murder, first degree burglary, first
degree rape, first degree arson, first degree reckless
endangering, two counts of second degree burglary, second
degree robbery, and misdemeanor theft. He was sentenced to
death. On April 4, 2017, after this Court declared the death
penalty unconstitutional in Rauf v.
State and applied it retroactively in Powell
v. Delaware,  Cooke filed a motion to vacate his death
sentence. The Superior Court granted the motion and
resentenced Cooke to life without parole or reduction.
(2) On appeal, Cooke argues that the Superior Court violated
his constitutional rights because it did not consider a term
of years under 11 Del. C. § 4205, and because a
mandatory life sentence without parole for first degree
murder violates the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the
United States Constitution.We review questions of law and
constitutional violations de novo.
(3) Cooke first argues that this Court declared 11 Del.
C. § 4209 unconstitutional in its entirety, and
thus the court should have sentenced him under 11 Del.
C. § 4205. We rejected this argument in Norcross
v. State. Thus, the argument is without merit.
(4) Cooke next argues that a mandatory life sentence without
parole or reduction for first degree murder violates the
Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States
Constitution. He cites no cases to support this
argument; rather, he points out that other states apply
different sentences. But "[t]he Eighth Amendment is not
violated every time a State reaches a conclusion different
from a majority of its sisters over how to best administer
its criminal laws." As we explained in Williams v.
State, "[t]he Delaware legislature's
determination to draw the line as it did . . . is justifiable
because of the violent nature of the crimes
involved." We thus defer to the General
(5) Cooke argues the sentence violates his Fourteenth
Amendment rights because he would have tried the case
differently had he known that a mandatory life sentence was
the only sentence for first degree murder. He does not
explain, however, how his strategy would have differed, or
why it would have changed the outcome of the case. Lacking
any support for his argument, we find that the Superior Court
did not violate Cooke's constitutional rights in
sentencing him to life without parole or reduction.
THEREFORE, it is hereby ORDERED that the judgment of the
Superior Court is AFFIRMED.
145 A.3d 430 (Del. 2016).