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State v. Ruffin

Superior Court of Delaware, Kent

May 9, 2018

RAMON R. RUFFIN, Defendant.

          RK13-12-0387-01 through, RK13-12-0389-01, RK13-12-0391-01 through, RK13-12-0394-01, RK14-02-0068-01, RK14-02-0069-01

         Upon Defendant's Motion for Postconviction Relief Pursuant to Superior Court Criminal Rule 61

          Jason C. Cohee, Esquire, Deputy Attorney General, Department of Justice, for the State of Delaware.

          Brian T. N. Jordan, Esquire, Wilmington, Delaware for Defendant. FREUD, Commissioner May 9, 2018


          M Andrea M Fraud, Commissioner

         The defendant, Ramon R. Ruffin, ("Ruffin") was found guilty following a jury trial on October 29, 2014 of one count of Attempted Robbery in the First Degree, 11 Del. C.§ 531; one count of Assault in the Second Degree as a lesser included count of Assault in the First Degree, 11 Del. C.§ 612; three counts of Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony, 11 Del. C.§ 1447A; one count of Aggravated Menacing, 11 Del. C. § 602; one count of Receiving a Stolen Firearm, 11 Del. C.§ 1450; one count of Disregarding a Police Officer's Signal, 21 Del. C. § 4103; and one count of Resisting Arrest, 11 Del. C.§ 1257. Two counts of Possession of a Firearm or Firearm Ammunition by a Person Prohibited were severed prior to trial. Following the conviction the State moved to declare Ruffin an habitual offender pursuant to 11 Del. C.§ 4124(b) mandatory life in prison. However following a discussion with the Court and Defense Counsel prior to sentencing both the State and Defense agreed that the Court should sentence Ruffin as an habitual offender under section 4214(a). Consequently the Court proceeded to sentence Ruffin to the minimum mandatory time of 113 years incarceration pursuant to 11 Del. C. § 4214(a).[1]

         Ruffin, through counsel, appealed his conviction to the Delaware Supreme Court. The issues on appeal were noted by the Court as follows:

(1) the trial court erred in admitting the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives ("ATF") trace report into evidence because it was inadmissable hearsay; (2) he was denied a fair trial due to improper, suggestive eyewitness identification; (3) the trial court erred in denying his request for a LollyFn2 instruction regarding the State's failure to test allegedly exculpatory evidence; and (4) he was prejudiced by cumulative error.[2]
Fn2 Lolly v. State, 611 A.2d 956 (Del. 1992).

         The Supreme Court on December 3, 2015, affirmed Ruffin's conviction and sentence stating "We have concluded that all of Ruffin's claims are without merit. Therefore, the judgment of the Superior Court must be affirmed."[3]

         On July 15, 2016, Ruffin filed a, pro se motion for postconviction relief in which he raised multiple grounds for relief including ineffective assistance of counsel. On July 27, 2016 Ruffin filed a Motion for Appointment of Counsel which the Court granted. Next Appointed Counsel on July 30, 2017 filed a letter to the Court stating that he was satisfied that Ruffin had "addressed all issues and I will not be adding any additional arguments to the ones he made." Following the filing of the affidavit of prior counsel and the State's response to the motion for postconviction relief, Appointed Counsel filed a response on January 12, 2018 in which he moved to withdraw claims 1, 2, 4 and 5 because after review of Trial Counsel's affidavit he concluded there was no ineffective assistance of counsel concerning those claims. Appointed Counsel continued to argue Trial Counsel was ineffective as outlined in claim 3. Ruffin filed a pro se reply on January 18, 2018 in which he addressed his argument concerning the witness identification.


         Following are the facts as set forth by the Delaware Supreme Court:

Robert Alan Cocozzoli is the owner of two McDonald's restaurant franchises in Dover, Delaware. On Monday afternoon, December 9, 2013, Cocozzoli was at his McDonald's restaurant located on the northbound side of U.S. Route 13. Cocozzoli was taking items outside to his Nissan Murano SUV parked on the south side of the restaurant.
As Cocozzoli was putting items into his car, a person approached from the rear asking for a cigarette. When Cocozzoli turned around, he hear, 'Give me your wallet.' at that point, he saw Ramon Ruffin pointing a gun at him.'Fn3 The gun Ruffin was holding looked to Cocozzoli like a .45 caliber weapon.Fn4 After Ruffin's demand for Cocozzoli's wallet, Cocozzoli grabbed Ruffin's hand containing the gun and a struggle between the two men ensued in the parking lot. Ruffin struck Cocozzoli in the head several times with the gun.
While Cocozzoli was struggling with Ruffin, a Pepsi van operated by Robert Yaniak, Jr. pulled into the McDonald's parking lot. Yaniak saw Ruffin beating Cocozzoli in the face repeatedly with a gun. When Yaniak blew his van's horn, Ruffin was distracted from his attack on Cocozzoli and pointed the gun at Yaniak. Yaniak had stopped his van about twenty feet from the scene of the struggle. Yaniak saw Ruffin's face and thought Ruffin was going to shoot him.'Fn5
Yaniak then saw Ruffin run to the driver's side of a white Pontiac minivan. According to both Cocozzoli and Yaniak, Ruffin got into the driver's side of the van. The white Pontiac minivan backed out of a parking space in front of Yaniak, who wrote down the vehicle's Delaware license plate number.
After Ruffin fled northbound on U.S. Route 13 in the minivan, Yaniak exited his vehicle. Cocozzoli told Yaniak to call 911. In his 911 call, Yaniak described Ruffin's getaway vehicle and gave the Delaware license plate number. Paramedics arrived at the McDonald's, and transported Cocozzoli to Kent General Hospital in Dover. Cocozzoli had cuts on his face, ear, and cheek as a result of Ruffin's attack. Hospital X-rays revealed that Cocozzoli had cheek bone fractures.
A police radio broadcast notified patrolling officers to be on the lookout for a robbery suspect fleeing northbound on U.S. Route 13 in a white Pontiac mini van with Delaware license plate number 57722. The police broadcast described the robbery suspect as a black male with a handgun.
Dover Police Department Brian Sherwood was driving on Scarborough Road near U.S. Route 13 in north Dover, when he received the police radio broadcast of a robbery in progress. Corporal Sherwood drove his unmarked police car to U.S. Route 13 and headed southbound. Corporal Sherwood spotted the white Pontiac minivan as it passed him from the opposite direction proceeding northbound on U.S. route 13. Corporal Sherwood verified the license plate number and observed a black male with a red jacket driving. Corporal Sherwood made a U-turn at Kentwood Drive and then drove northbound on U.S. Route 13 in pursuit.
The white Pontiac minivan also made a U-turn and proceeded southbound on U.S. Route 13 until it turned right into the entranceway for a Holiday Inn and another McDonald's restaurant. At this point, Corporal Sherwood activated the lights and siren on his police vehicle. The white Pontiac minivan attempted to elude the police by returning to U.S. Route 13 southbound, turning right into an old Wal-Mart store parking lot, driving on Crawford Carroll Road and then Scarborough Road before returning to U.S. Route 13.
During the circular police pursuit, Corporal Sherwood observed the white Pontiac minivan run three stop signs, sideswipe a Dodge Ram vehicle, and bump a red car several times in an effort to push that vehicle out of the way. Corporal Sherwood also observed a passenger inside the minivan. Other Dover police vehicles joined in the highway pursuit of the minivan. At Ruffin's trial, the ...

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