Submitted: January 17, 2018
Defendant's Motion for Postconviction Relief. DENIED.
L. Johnson, Esquire, Deputy Attorney General, Department of
Justice, Wilmington, Delaware, Attorney for the State.
Rollins, James T. Vaughn Correctional Institution, Smyrna,
Delaware, pro se.
Richard R. Cooch, J.
14th day of March 2018, upon consideration of Defendant's
Motion for Postconviction Relief, it appears to the Court
September 4, 2013, Defendant pled guilty to two counts of
Strangulation. "As part of the plea agreement, the
State indicated that it would seek to declare [Defendant] a
habitual offender under 11 Del. C. § 4214(a) on
the second count of Strangulation, but would waive proceeding
against [Defendant] as a habitual offender on the first count
of Strangulation." Defendant was incorrectly advised at
the time of the plea that the second count was subject to a
minimum mandatory five- year sentence. At sentencing by
another judge, the Court declared Defendant a habitual
offender as to the second count of strangulation, and
sentenced him to fifteen years at Level V supervision as to
the second count, and five years Level V as to the first
Defendant appealed his sentence to the Delaware Supreme
Court. In his appeal, Defendant argued that the Court, his
trial counsel, and the prosecutor mistakenly had
characterized Strangulation as a violent offense under 11
Del. C. § 4201(c), and improperly had required
a minimum mandatory sentence of five years at Level V
supervision."The State agreed and filed a motion
to remand for resentencing." As this court later noted in
its decision denying Defendant's later request to
withdraw his guilty plea, "[t]his case is unusual in
that Defendant wishe[d] to withdraw his guilty plea although
he ultimately got a better deal (in terms of any minimum
mandatory sentence to which he would be subject) than he
originally bargained for" since the State in the original
plea agreement had agreed to nolle prosequi the
companion Assault Second Degree, which would have subjected
Defendant, if convicted of same and then sentenced as an
habitual offender, to an eight-year minimum
mandatory Level V sentence.
Defendant filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea on June
10, 2014. Defendant argued that his guilty plea was not
knowing, intelligent, and voluntary because of the mistaken
belief that Strangulation was a violent offense, requiring a
minimum of five years at Level V supervision. On July 31,
2014, Defendant filed a pro se motion to dismiss his
trial counsel and for appointment of new counsel. On August
7, Defendant's trial counsel filed a motion to withdraw.
On August 22, 2014, this Court denied all of the pending
January 16, 2015, Rollins was resentenced. The Court declared
Defendant a habitual offender as to the second count of
Strangulation, and sentenced him to fifteen years at Level V
supervision on that count. The Court sentenced Defendant to
five years at Level V supervision on the first count,
suspended after two years for decreasing levels of
supervision. Defendant appealed his motion to withdraw his
guilty plea and his sentence to the Delaware Supreme Court.
The Delaware Supreme Court affirmed this Court's
August 25, 2016, Defendant filed pro se the instant
motion, which is his first and timely Motion for
Postconviction Relief. Some of the fifteen grounds for relief
identified in his motion appear to allege ineffective
assistance of counsel. On October 11, 2016, Defendant filed
his first Motion for Appointment of Counsel. Due to a lack of
response from this Court, Defendant filed a second Motion for
Appointment of Counsel on December 28, 2016. This Court
denied Defendant's two motions for appointment of counsel
on March 3, 2017.
his motion, Defendant raises fifteen grounds for relief,
which read below:
Ground #1: Direct appeal counsel was ineffective for failing
to [c]ite trial counsel's ineffectiveness.
Supporting Facts: Counsel's representation on direct
appeal filing of non merit brief was inadequate to meet the
Supreme Court standard set in anders [sic], and was done to
cover up trial counsel's ineffectiveness (A) mislead
movant on the conditions of his plea, and (B) conceived
argument on direct appeal to hide it. See Grubbs,
900 F.Supp. 435 (1998).
Ground #2: Trial court committed reversible error by not
allowing the plea withdrawal.
Supporting Facts: The record shows that the trial court
incorrectly ruled on the movant's prior motion to
withdraw his plea under Patterson, 684 A.2d 1234
(1996). Delaware Supreme Court made it clear that the trial
court does not have a "balancing" criteria under
Rule 32(d) and that any "fair and just" reason has
been shown by defendant seeking to withdraw a guilty plea. Do
not lend themselves to a "balancing" analysis which
was incorporated by this court Id., 684 A.2d at
Ground #3: Trial counsel ineffective.
Supporting Facts: Counsel failed to research the possibility
of the[re] being serious mental illness. As a result of
proneness to violence at a young age there never was an
investigation by trial counsel concerning the aforementioned
Ground #4: Counsel refused to file a motion to withdraw
Supporting Facts: Trial counsel's refusal to file a
motion to withdraw guilty plea or advise court of
movant's desire to do same violated movant's
constitutional rights and caused immediate prejudice.
Counsel's deficient performance affected the outcome of
Ground #5: Constructive denial of counsel.
Supporting Facts: Attorney-client relationship was so poor,
counsel was unable to prepare a defense. Counsel relied
solely on defendant taking a plea instead of challenging the
Ground #6: Right to due process violation.
Supporting Facts: Courts may grant several different kinds of
remedies for a Due Process violation if a conviction was
unlawfully obtained. Here defendant's constitutional
right to Due Process was violated because the violation not
only involved a mistake, but also that the mistake undermined
the fundamental, legality, reliability, integrity, and
fairness of the proceedings leading to his conviction.
Ground #7: Abuse of discretion.
Supporting Facts: Honorable Richard R. Cooch abused his
discretion by not allowing defendant to withdraw his guilty
plea or an evidentiary hearing to determine why defendant
plead guilty under false premises. The cumulative impact of
the deficiencies constitutes reversible error.
Ground #8: Failure to challenge career/habitual offender
Supporting Facts: Counsel was ineffective for not objecting
to career offender enhancements; conviction for strangulation
because it wasn't a crime of violence.
Ground [#9]: 14th Amendment.
Supporting Facts: Defendant was denied equal protection of
the law when he was not given an opportunity to an
evidentiary hearing to correct the mistakes concerning his
plea-agreement and the conflict of interest with his trial
Ground [#10]: Plain Error.
Supporting Facts: Plain error is limited to material defects
which are apparent on the face of the record which are basic,
serious, fundamental in their character, mis-informing
defendant of his procedural defect plea, was an error that
was so serious his conviction ...