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Moody v. State

Supreme Court of Delaware

September 24, 2018

ROBERT MOODY, Petitioner Below, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF DELAWARE, Respondent Below, Appellee.

          Submitted: August 15, 2018

          Court Below: Superior Court of the State of Delaware ID. No. 1307020184

          Before STRINE, Chief Justice; VALIHURA and VAUGHN, Justices.

          ORDER

          James T. Vaughn, Jr. Justice.

         This 24th day of September 2018, upon consideration of the parties' briefs and the record on appeal, it appears that:

         (1) The Appellant, Robert Moody, appeals from a Superior Court order which denied his motion for postconviction relief. He asserts three claims. He contends that: (1) the Superior Court erred by ruling he was not prejudiced by his trial counsel's failure to move to sever a person prohibited charge and counsel's stipulation to his person prohibited status; (2) the Superior Court erred by ruling that his trial counsel was not ineffective in failing to move to suppress evidence of a firearm and ammunition that formed the basis for the charges against him; and (3) the Superior Court abused its discretion by not allowing an expansion of the record during the postconviction proceedings. We find no merit to Moody's claims and affirm.

         (2) Around midnight on July 25, 2013, Wilmington Police Officer Matthew Geiser was patrolling a high crime neighborhood.[1] He observed Moody riding his bicycle with a noticeable bulge around his right rear waistline. Based on Officer Geiser's training and experience, he believed Moody was armed. He sounded his vehicle's air horn and ordered Moody to stop. Moody looked at the officer and performed a "security check" of his right rear waistline with his hand. Then, Moody sped up on his bicycle and turned down an alleyway behind the vacant Walt's Flavor Crisp store.

         (3) Officer Geiser crossed paths with Moody at the other end of the alley. He ordered Moody to get off his bicycle and noticed Moody no longer had a bulge in his right rear waistline. Along with other officers, Officer Geiser searched the area and arrested Moody after discovering a .357 Magnum on the roof of one the buildings adjacent to the ally. The gun was loaded with three rounds of ammunition.

         (4) On March 22, 2014, a jury convicted Moody of possession of a firearm by a person prohibited, carrying a concealed deadly weapon, and possession of ammunition by a person prohibited. Moody was sentenced to a total of 21 years at level V, suspended after 5 years for decreasing levels of probation.

         (5) Moody filed a direct appeal to this Court. We affirmed his conviction.[2]Moody then filed a timely Motion for Postconviction Relief. The Superior Court denied his motion. This appeal followed.

         (6) The Superior Court's denial of a Rule 61 Motion for Postconviction relief is reviewed for an abuse of discretion.[3] Questions of law are reviewed de novo.[4]

         (7) The two-pronged test for claims of ineffective assistance of counsel was established by the United States Supreme Court in Strickland v. Washington.[5] First, a defendant must show that his "counsel's representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness."[6] "Second, the defendant must show that the deficient performance prejudiced the defense."[7]

         (8) Trial counsel's actions "are afforded a strong presumption of reasonableness" because of the "distorting effects of hindsight."[8] The conduct being challenged must be evaluated "from the counsel's perspective at that time."[9]

         (9) If a defendant is able to demonstrate "that his counsel's conduct fell below an objective standard of reasonableness," he must then demonstrate counsel's error was "so serious as to deprive the defendant of a fair trial, a trial whose result is reliable."[10] "Defendant must establish 'that there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different.'"[11]

         (10) Moody first contends that the Superior Court erred by ruling that his trial counsel was not ineffective by failing to move to sever the person prohibited charge. His theory is that he suffered prejudice because trying the person prohibited charge together with the other two charges allowed the jury to infer that he had a motive for disposing of the firearm. It allowed the jury to infer, the reasoning goes, that he threw the weapon on the roof because he knew that he was a person prohibited and could not be caught with a firearm in his possession. This inference, he contends, enabled the State to prove that he was carrying a concealed deadly weapon with ammunition when he was first ...


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