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Kent v. State

Supreme Court of Delaware

June 26, 2018

JEFFREY KENT, Defendant Below-Appellant,
STATE OF DELAWARE, Plaintiff Below-Appellee.

          Submitted: April 18, 2018

          Court Below-Superior Court of the State of Delaware ID. No. 1302002915 (N)

          Before VALIHURA, VAUGHN, and SEITZ, Justices.


          James T. Vaughn, Jr. Justice.

         This 26th day of June 2018, upon consideration of the appellant's Supreme Court Rule 26(c) brief, his attorney's motion to withdraw, and the State's response thereto, it appears to the Court that:

         (1) In September 2014, a Superior Court jury convicted the defendant-appellant, Jeffrey Kent, of Murder in the First Degree and Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony ("PFDCF"). After denying Kent's motions for judgment of acquittal and for a new trial, the Superior Court sentenced Kent to life imprisonment plus a term of years. This Court affirmed his convictions and sentence on direct appeal.[1]

         (2) Kent filed a motion for postconviction relief and a motion for appointment of counsel in April 2016. The Superior Court appointed counsel to represent him and gave appointed counsel the opportunity to file an amended motion under Rule 61. The amended motion raised three claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel. After obtaining responses from Kent's trial counsel and from the State, as well as Kent's reply, a Superior Court Commissioner issued a report on September 5, 2017, recommending that Kent's amended motion for postconviction relief be denied.[2] On December 5, 2017, the Superior Court adopted the Commissioner's report and recommendation and denied Kent's motion. This appeal followed.

         (3) On appeal, Kent's counsel has filed a brief and a motion to withdraw under Rule 26(c). Appellate counsel asserts that, based upon a complete and careful examination of the record, there are no arguably appealable issues. By letter, appellate counsel informed Kent of the provisions of Rule 26(c) and provided him with a copy of the motion to withdraw and the accompanying brief. Kent also was informed of his right to supplement his attorney's presentation. In response to appellate counsel's motion and brief, Kent has raised several issues for this Court's consideration. The State has responded to Kent's points, as well as to the position taken by Kent's counsel, and has moved to affirm the Superior Court's judgment.

         (4) The standard and scope of review applicable to the consideration of a motion to withdraw and an accompanying brief under Rule 26(c) is twofold: (a) this Court must be satisfied that defense counsel has made a conscientious examination of the record and the law for arguable claims; and (b) this Court must conduct its own review of the record and determine whether the appeal is so totally devoid of at least arguably appealable issues that it can be decided without an adversary presentation.[3]

         (5) The following recitation of facts is taken from this Court's decision on Kent's direct appeal:

On June 30, 2011, Dewey Lee was stopped at the intersection of West 8th and Monroe Streets in Wilmington, Delaware. While he was stopped, a man on a bicycle approached his vehicle and began speaking with him. At some point during the conversation, the man on the bicycle shot Lee. Lee's vehicle then accelerated west on 8th Street before striking a utility pole. The man on the bicycle fled north on Monroe Street.
When the Wilmington Police responded to the scene, they found Lee behind the wheel of his vehicle. He was unresponsive and bleeding from a gunshot wound to his torso. He died as a result. During the investigation, the Wilmington Police located three eyewitnesses: Thurman Boston, Brianna Brown ("Brianna"), and Dajuan'ya Brown ("Dajuan'ya"). All three identified Kent as the man on the bicycle.
In February 2013, Kent was indicted on charges of Murder in the First Degree and PFDCF. Two attorneys from the Public Defender's Office ("PDO") were appointed to represent him. Shortly after being appointed, Kent's counsel sent the State a discovery request, which included a request for a list of the State's witnesses. The State responded, but did not provide a list of witnesses, citing concerns for the witnesses' safety. This concern may have received some confirmation in May 2014 when Wilmington Police came into possession of a letter from Kent requesting that his nephew locate the witnesses to the crime.
On July 16, 2014, defense counsel again requested a witness list. One reason defense counsel requested the names of the witnesses was to identify potential conflicts of interest. The State requested a protective order for the witness list on July 29, 2014, protecting against disclosure of the names to the defendant. In the weeks ...

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