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State v. Urquhart

Superior Court of Delaware

March 15, 2018

STATE OF DELAWARE, Plaintiff,
v.
ROBERT L. URQUHART, Defendant.

          Phillip M. Casale, Esquire, Deputy Attorney General, Delaware Department of Justice, Attorney for the State.

          Natalie S. Woloshin, Trial Counsel.

          Robert Urquhart, pro se.

          COMMISSIONER'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR POSTCONVICTION RELIEF

          Bradley V. Manning, Commissioner.

         This 15th day of March, 2018, upon consideration of defendant Robert L. Urquhart's Motion for Postconviction Relief ("Motion"), I find and recommend the following:

         Facts and Procedural History

         On July 30, 2015, officers with the Wilmington Police Department, FBI, and Safe Streets Task Force, executed search warrants for Urquhart, his address at 104 Rita Road and a vehicle associated with him in connection with an illegal drug investigation. Officers located 87.8 grams of crack cocaine and 869 bags of heroin weighing 13 grams in a detached shed in Urquhart's backyard. Officers also located 38 bags of crack cocaine weighing over 29 grams and 2, 393 bags of heroin weighing 35 grams in a vehicle parked in the driveway of 104 Rita Road. The vehicle had been rented by Urquhart and located inside the vehicle were documents in Urquhart's name as well as his wallet. In the house, police located $9, 613.00 in cash. According to the police reports, Urquhart made post-Miranda statements admitting to possession/ownership of the drugs in the shed, but not the car. Additionally, when shown the bags of drugs found in the shed by police, Urquhart admitted that the bags contained heroin and crack cocaine, stating that he had just "re-upped" and that he "moves a lot of drugs." [1] In total, 3, 262 bags of heroin were located which field-tested positive, and 41 bags of crack cocaine were located which also field-tested positive.

         Urquhart was subsequently indicted on September 28, 2015, for Aggravated Possession of cocaine (more than 25 grams), Drug Dealing cocaine (more than 20 grams), Aggravated Possession of heroin (more than 5 grams), Drug Dealing heroin (more than 4 grams), Drug Dealing Marijuana and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia. Per SENTAC guidelines, Urquhart faced 2-25 years on each of the counts of Aggravated Possession and Drug Dealing heroin or cocaine, for a total of eight years minimum/mandatory Level 5 time if convicted as indicted.[2]

         Trial Counsel (hereinafter "Counsel") was retained to represent Urquhart in August 2015. According to the detailed Affidavit filed by Counsel in response to Urquhart's Motion, she requested discovery from the State and meet with Urquhart on at least four occasions prior to the entry of his guilty plea. She also sent him a number of letters memorializing their conversations and answering his questions.[3]

         After negotiations between the State and Counsel, Urquhart accepted and entered a plea of guilty to two counts of Drug Dealing (one at a lower tier weight as a lesser included offense) on January 6, 2016. The plea agreement called for a presentence investigation, a minimum/mandatory Level 5 period of two years, and the State agreed to cap its recommendation of unsuspended Level 5 time at 4 years. It is important to note that Counsel never received a copy of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner ("OCME") controlled substances laboratory report confirming the suspected substances or weights as part of the discovery because the drugs had not yet been tested by the time Urquhart entered his guilty plea.[4] The State submitted documentation showing that once Urquhart had pled guilty, the State contacted the OCME and requested that the drugs be removed from the testing schedule.[5]

         Urquhart was sentenced on March 11, 2016, to three and one-half years of unsuspended Level 5 time, followed by probation. Urquhart did not file an appeal to the Delaware Supreme Court, but he did file a motion for sentence modification that was denied on July 14, 2016.[6]

         Urquhart filed the instant Motion on October 14, 2016.[7] In his Motion, Urquhart's claims for postconviction relief, quoted verbatim, are as follows:

Ground One: Ineffective Assistance of Counsel. Counsels lack of investigation into questioning whether or not what the police department found at my residence as well as why they were even interested in my apprehension were authenticated by anyone besides themselves.
Ground Two: Ineffective Assistance of Counsel/suppression of Favorable Evidence. Due to a lack of interest in pursuing results of crucial evidence that could've been suppressed, I was wrongly convicted by evidence that was possibly tampered with that was later revealed to me after my plea agreement was signed, with notarized documents to support my accusation.
Ground Three: Ineffective Assistance of Counsel/Involuntary or coerced plea. Due to my inability to comprehend to what my counsel had to repeatedly explain to me about the various guidelines concerning sentences for drug charges along with the process of it all I reverted back to my looming family turmoil that has since spiraled to wear doom. I was promised by counsel that she would request the minimum of two years, but later failed to request anything less than three years.

         The Motion was referred to Judge Wallace who issued an Order to Expand the Record and briefing schedule on October 18, 2016.[8] Counsel filed her Affidavit on December 13, 2016. The State filed its Response on March 20, 2017.

         However, just prior to the State's Response, on March 17, 2017, Urquhart filed a document titled "Motion to Amed/Expand The Record. Crim. Rule 61(g) And to Compel Discovery of Missing Document, Crim Rule (16)."[9] In this document, Urquhart raised a number of additional grounds for relief-very unhelpfully in narrative form. As best I can discern, Urquhart makes the following arguments: (1) Counsel knew about the misconduct at the OCME as she was counsel in State v, Binard, 2016 WL 358990 (Del. Super. January 22, 2016), (2) Counsel was ineffective for failing to request or obtain Discovery (i.e. the laboratory report) regarding the drugs before advising him to plead guilty, (3) Counsel wore "two hats" and coerced him into pleading guilty such that his plea was unknowingly, unintelligently and involuntarily entered, (4) that had he been in possession of the laboratory report there is a "great probability" of a different result, (5) that the laboratory report was "intentionally" withheld by the State and the State negotiated the plea in "bad faith, " (6) Counsel never advised him that without the report the State could not proceed to trial, and (7) that the misconduct in the OCME and with chemist Bipin Mody violated his due process rights and prejudiced him.

         The State filed a Response to the Amended Motion on April 6, 2017.[10]Urquhart filed a Reply on June 19, 2017.[11] In his Reply, Urquhart requested an evidentiary hearing. Per Judge Wallace's request, the State filed a short response on September 28, 2017, arguing that the request for the evidentiary hearing should be denied.[12]

         The matter was referred to the undersigned commissioner on December 6, 2017. I have thoroughly reviewed the record in this case, including the additional information and transcripts provided by the parties in response to the allegations, and do not believe an evidentiary hearing is necessary or warranted.

         Legal ...


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