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Martinez v. Carney

United States District Court, D. Delaware

March 27, 2018

JOHN CARNEY, et al., Defendants.

          Oscar Martinez, James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, Smyrna, Delaware, Pro Se Plaintiff.




         Plaintiff Oscar Martinez ("Plaintiff) filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of his constitutional rights.[1] (D.I. 3) Plaintiff is incarcerated at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center ("VCC) in Smyrna, Delaware. He appears pro se and has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (D.I. 5) The Court proceeds to review and screen the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and § 1915A(a). Also before the Court are Plaintiffs request for counsel and motion for partial summary judgment. (D.I. 7, 18)


         Plaintiff filed his Complaint on May 15, 2017, followed by an Amended Complaint on September5, 2017.[2] (D.I. 3, 14)

         On August 3, 2009, Plaintiff was indicted in the Superior Court of the State of Delaware in and for New Castle County on the charge of robbery in the first degree. See State v. Martinet Case I.D. No. 0905009708 (Del. Super.) at D.I. 5; Martinez v. Metier, Civ. No. 17-956-LPS (D. Del.) D.I. 1 Ex. I at D.I. 5. On September 14, 2009, Plaintiff pled guilty to robbery in the second degree. Id. at D.I. 10. On October 2, 2009, the State moved to declare Plaintiff an habitual offender. Id. at D.I. 12. On November 16, 2009, Plaintiff moved to withdraw his guilty plea; the motion was denied on December 11, 2009. Id. at D.I. 14, D.I. 16. On January 15, 2010, Plaintiff was sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment, followed by a period of probation. Id. at D.I. 17. Plaintiff did not appeal.

         On February 19, 2010, Plaintiff filed a request for modification of sentence. Id. at D.I. 18. The motion was denied on March 10, 2010 because "the sentence imposed is mandatory and cannot be reduced or suspended." Id. at D.I. 19. Plaintiff filed his first motion for postconviction relief on September 7, 2011, and his second motion for postconviction relief on August 12, 2015. Id. at D.I. 20, 31. Both motions were denied. Id. at D.I. 26, 34.

         On March 8, 2017 and March 24, 2017, Plaintiff sought review of his "habitual sentence." See Martinet Civ. No. 17-956-LPS at D.I. 1 at 3; Ex. I at D.I. 46, 47. Therein, Plaintiff raised the following ground for relief: S.B. 163, [3] effective July 19, 2016, allowed Plaintiff to apply to modify his sentence under 11 Del. C. § 4214(f), as enacted by 80 Del. Laws ch. 321 (2016). The matter was summarily dismissed without prejudice. See Id. Plaintiff also filed a petition for a writ of mandamus in the Superior Court, seeking immediate release to Level 4 Plummer Center and raising the issue that H.B. 18, [4] effective April 13, 2017, was illegal when passed. See Marline, Civ. No. 17-956-LPS, D.I. 1 at 4; Ex. I at D.I. 52. The petition was denied on May 15, 2017. See id.

The May 15, 2017 order advised Plaintiff that he was not eligible for relief under 11 Del. C. § 4214(f), for the following reasons:

The 2016 Act that provides for review of sentences of certain inmates whose sentences were imposed under the Habitual Criminal Act in effect prior to July 19, 2016, has been clarified recently. See 81 Del. Laws ch. 6 (2017). Specifically, the General Assembly's intent in amending the state's habitual offender law in 2016 was to address situations where an inmate is serving a "minimum sentence of not less than the statutory maximum penalty for a violent felony pursuant to [previous § 4214(a)] . . . not sentences where judges had already exercised complete discretion." Del. H.B. 18 syn., 149th Gen. Assem., 81 Del. Laws ch. 6 (2017).

The offense for which you received a habitual criminal sentence in IN09-05-1244 was robbery second degree. See Del. Code Ann. tit. 11, §§ 824 and 4205(b)(5)(2009). In turn, the ten-year term the Court imposed under then-existing § 4214(a) was a wholly discretionary sentence (albeit the first five years were required under then-existing § 4214(a)). See Del. Code Ann. tit. 11, § 4214(a) (2009) (providing only a minimum mandatory sentence equal to the statutory maximum for one whose triggering offense is a violent Tide 11 felony). You did not receive your ten-year term as a mandatory minimum sentence under the prior version of 11 Del. C. § 4214(a). And so, you are not eligible for relief under new 11 Del. C. § 4214(f).
Moreover, you seem to be under the misimpression that the new provisions of 11 Del. C. 4214(a), (b), and (c) require the Court to adjust the sentence of any inmate who is actually eligible for review. But ยง 4214(g) has always been clear: "[n]othing in [] section [4214], however, shall require the Court to grant such a petitioner a sentence ...

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