Submitted: February 21, 2018
Below: Superior Court of the State of Delaware Cr. ID. No.
VALIHURA, VAUGHN, and SEITZ, Justices.
Collins J. Seitz, Jr. Justice
7th day of March, 2018, having considered the
briefs and the record below, it appears to the Court that:
March 30, 2001, a jury convicted Milton Taylor of first
degree murder, and the Superior Court sentenced him to death.
This Court affirmed on July 6, 2001. Taylor filed a motion
for postconviction relief, which the Superior Court denied on
August 6, 2010, and this Court affirmed on October 25, 2011.
On November 26, 2014, Taylor filed a second motion for
postconviction relief, which was stayed pending this
Court's decision in Powell v.
Delaware. In Powell, this Court held that
the decision in Rauf v. State,  which found
Delaware's death penalty statute unconstitutional,
applied retroactively. Therefore, the Superior Court vacated
Taylor's death sentence and sentenced him to life in
prison without the benefit of probation or parole, pursuant
to 11 Del. C. § 4209(d)(2). On July 10, 2017,
Taylor filed a Rule 35 motion to correct or reduce his
sentence,  arguing he should have been sentenced
under 11 Del. C. § 4205. The Superior Court
denied the motion on August 11, 2017,  and Taylor
appealed. This Court reviews the denial of a Rule 35 motion
for an abuse of discretion and reviews questions of law de
appeal, Taylor argues the court should have sentenced him
according to 11 Del. C. § 4205 because Rauf
v. State found 11 Del. C. § 4209
unconstitutional in its entirety. We rejected this argument in
Zebroski v. State, explaining that
"Rauf did not . . . invalidate the entirety of
section 4209, and, as we said in Powell, the
statute's life-without-parole alternative is the correct
sentence to impose on a defendant whose death sentence is
vacated." Thus, the Superior Court properly
sentenced Taylor under 11 Del. C. § 4209(d)(2).
Taylor next argues that a mandatory sentence of life without
parole violates the Eighth Amendment of the United States
Constitution because "Delaware would be the only
non-death penalty state to punish an act defined as broadly
as 'intentional killing' with mandatory life without
the possibility of parole." Taylor argues this
"[r]are usage indicates societal rejection of
mandatorily imposing this extreme penalty, rendering it cruel
and unusual under the Eighth Amendment." Taylor
provides no support for this argument. This Court and the
United States Supreme Court have explained that "[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." Instead, we
defer to the General Assembly's
Lastly, Taylor argues that the sentence violates his
Fourteenth Amendment Due Process rights,  because his
"trial strategy would surely have been different, "
had life without parole been the mandatory
sentence. He argues that his counsel "would
have given different advice . . . and may well have changed
his approach to the presentation of evidence at
guilt." This argument was also rejected in
Zebroski v. State, and Taylor does not state how the
strategy or advice would have differed, nor how it would have
affected the outcome of the case. Therefore, Taylor's
sentence of life imprisonment without benefit of probation or
parole does not violate his constitutional rights under the
Eighth or Fourteenth Amendments.
THEREFORE, it is hereby ORDERED that the judgment of the
Superior Court is AFFIRMED.
153 A.3d 69 (Del. 2016).