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Martinez v. Metzger

Supreme Court of Delaware

August 7, 2018


          Submitted: June 6, 2018

          Superior Court of the State of Delaware C.A.No.N18M-02-0318, Cr. ID No. 0905009708 (N)

          Before STRINE, Chief Justice; SEITZ and TRAYNOR, Justices.



         (1) In 2010, the appellant, Oscar Martinez, pleaded guilty to second-degree robbery. In accordance with the parties' plea agreement, Martinez was declared a habitual criminal and was sentenced to ten years of Level V incarceration under subsection (a) of 11 Del C. § 4214, the State's habitual criminal sentencing statute.

         (2) In 2016, the General Assembly passed legislation, effective July 19, 2016, which made significant changes to § 4214. The statute, as rewritten, eliminated mandatory life sentences for habitual criminals, narrowed the list of offenses eligible for habitual criminal sentencing, and made other changes to the mandatory sentences associated with a habitual criminal designation. The new statute also included a remedial provision-§ 4214(f)-which provided habitual criminals, sentenced before July 19, 2016, a one-time opportunity to petition for a modification of sentence.[1] In 2017, when questions arose regarding the intended reach of § 4214(f), the General Assembly amended the statute to clarify that the retroactive relief available under § 4214(f) was intended to affect only habitual criminal sentences imposing the minimum-mandatory required under the statute, not discretionary sentences that exceeded the minimum-mandatory.[2]

         (3) Over the past eighteen months, Martinez has tried, repeatedly, to convince the Superior Court that he is eligible to seek a sentence modification under § 4214(f). Two such attempts-a petition for a writ of mandamus and a motion for sentence review-were denied by the Superior Court in an order issued on May 15, 2017. A third attempt-a petition for a writ of habeas corpus-was dismissed by the Superior Court in an order dated July 19, 2017. The Superior Court denied Martinez' various requests to file a petition under § 4214(f) because, among other reasons, his ten-year habitual criminal sentence for second-degree robbery exceeded the five-year minimum-mandatory sentence required for that offense under the version of § 4214(a) in effect in 2010 when Martinez pleaded guilty, and thus his sentence, under the amended statute, is considered discretionary. Martinez filed appeals from the May 15 and July 19 orders, but both appeals were dismissed as untimely filed.[3]

         (4) This appeal is from the Superior Court's March 13, 2018 denial of a motion to certify questions of law and a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, Martinez' latest attempts to obtain a sentence modification under § 4214(f). The March 13 decision also denied Martinez' fifth motion seeking a modification of sentence under Superior Court Criminal Rule 35(b). The State has filed a motion to affirm the Superior Court's judgment.

         (5) Having carefully considered the parties' positions on appeal, we conclude that the Superior Court's judgment should be affirmed on the basis of, and for the reasons stated in, the court's well-reasoned decision dated March 13, 2018.[4]The Superior Court did not err in concluding that Martinez' motion under Rule 35(b) was procedurally barred as repetitive, that Martinez had not met the requirements to request a certification of questions of law, and that he was not entitled to habeas corpus relief. To the extent Martinez used this appeal to challenge the court's orders of May 15 and July 19, 2017, his claims are outside the scope of the appeal.[5] Martinez may not use this appeal to resurrect claims of error that could have been, but were not, raised in a timely appeal.[6]

         NOW, THEREFORE, IT IS ORDERED that the State's motion to affirm is GRANTED. The judgment of the Superior Court is AFFIRMED.

         Submitted: February 26, 2018

         Decided: March 13, 2018


         This 13th day of March, 2018, upon consideration of Defendant and Petitioner Oscar Martinez's Motion Under Superior Court Criminal Rule 35 (D.I. 73)[1], Motion To Certify Questions Of Law (D.I. 71), and Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (D.I. 75), and the record in this case, the Court finds the following:

         (1) On September 14, 2009, Oscar Martinez, initially indicted on the charge of Robbery in the First Degree, [2] pleaded guilty to the lesser included offense of Robbery in the Second Degree.[3] He did so in exchange for the State's withholding of an insurmountable habitual criminal sentencing petition[4] and joined with the State in a favorable sentencing recommendation (ten years of imprisonment under then-extant 11 Del C. § 4214(a)).[5] His sentencing occurred a few months later, on January 15, 2010, after a pre-sentence investigative report was prepared and the State had filed a habitual criminal petition.[6] Martinez was sentenced to that which he and the State had agreed upon: ten years at Level V to be served under the provisions of the then-extant Habitual Criminal Act.[7] As required by law, he also received a six-month term of probation to follow his imprisonment.[8] Martinez's sentencing order notes that his habitual criminal sentence was effective on May 13, 2009.[9] Martinez is now incarcerated at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center serving that sentence.

         Martinez's Rule 35 Motion (D.I, 73)

         (2) Martinez has filed a motion asking the Court to correct, reduce, or modify his sentence.

         (3) His request to reduce or modify is governed by this Court's Criminal Rule 35(b).[10] When considering such an application under Rule 35(b), the Court must address any applicable procedural bars before turning to its merits.[11]

         (4) Martinez has previously filed numerous unsuccessful applications to reduce or modify his your sentence.[12] As our Supreme Court and this Court have consistently held, Rule 35(b) prohibits consideration of repetitive requests for sentence reduction or modification.[13] There is no exception to the repetitive motion bar.[14] And so, ...

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