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State v. Wright-Clayton

Superior Court of Delaware

October 23, 2018


          Submitted: July 12, 2018


          Phillip M. Casale, Esquire, Deputy Attorney General, Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware, Attorney for the State.

          Natalie S. Woloshin, Esquire, Attorney for Defendant

          Andrew J. Meyer, Esquire


         This 23rd day of October, upon consideration of Defendant's Motion for Postconviction Relief, it appears to the Court that:


         1. On November 9, 2015, Defendant Lamar Wright-Clayton was indicted on charges of Possession of a Firearm by a Person Prohibited ("PFBPP"), Possession of Ammunition by a Person Prohibited ("PABPP"), Carrying a Concealed Deadly Weapon ("CCDW"), Endangering the Welfare of a Child, Driving While Suspended, and Operating a Motor Vehicle in an Unsafe Condition.

         2. A motion to suppress was filed by defense counsel on Wright-Clayton's behalf[1], and following a hearing on the motion, on March 21, 2016, the motion was denied.[2]

         3. After the denial of the suppression motion, on March 22, 2016, the case proceeded to trial. The State entered a nolle prosequi on the Operating a Motor Vehicle in an Unsafe Condition charge and proceeded to jury trial on the remaining charges.

         4. That same day, the jury rendered its verdict. Wright-Clayton was acquitted of Endangering the Welfare of a Child and found guilty of all the other charges.

         5. Prior to sentencing the State moved to declare Wright-Clayton a habitual offender.[3] On June 3, 2016, following a pre-sentence investigation, Wright-Clayton was declared a habitual offender, pursuant to 11 Del.C. § 4214(a), as to the PFBPP and CCDW charges.

         6. The Superior Court sentenced Wright-Clayton to a total unsuspended sentence of 23 years and 30 days at Level V incarceration followed by probation. Wright-Clayton was sentenced to 15 years at Level V, as a habitual offender, on the PFBPP conviction. Defendant was sentenced to 8 years at Level V, as a habitual offender, on the CCDW conviction. On the PABPP conviction Defendant was sentenced to 5 years at Level V suspended for 18 months at Level III. On the driving while suspended/revoked, Defendant was sentenced to 30 days at Level V.

         7. Wright-Clayton filed a direct appeal to the Delaware Supreme Court. In Wright-Clayton's direct appeal, he appealed the denial of his suppression motion. On January 20, 2017, the Delaware Supreme Court determined that the appeal was without merit, upheld the denial of his suppression motion, and affirmed the judgment of the Superior Court.[4]


         8. On September 18, 2015 at about 7:05 p.m., a traffic stop was conducted near the intersection of 26th Street and Jessup in the City of Wilmington.[5] The police officers observed that the vehicle had a crack in the windshield and a missing bumper. The police officers pulled over the vehicle to take a closer look to determine whether the vehicle was in an unsafe condition.[6]

         9. Wright-Clayton was the driver of the vehicle. At the time of the stop, Wright-Clayton admitted to the police that his license was suspended. He appeared to be extremely nervous. His breathing was elevated. He kept looking at his drive stick. The police ordered Wright-Clayton out of the vehicle since they were not going to allow him to drive the vehicle without a valid license.[7]

         10. As Wright-Clayton stepped out of the vehicle, the police noticed that his right hand stayed pressed against his right pant pocket, and he positioned himself so that he was facing the officer with his left side so that the officer could not see his right side. It was very unusual. He was looking over his left shoulder as he was talking to the officer.[8]

         11. The police conducted a pat-down search of Wright-Clayton and there was a loaded firearm found in this right pant pocket.[9]

         12. Following the suppression hearing on March 21, 2016, the Superior Court held that the police had a reasonable and articulable suspicion to conduct the stop, to order Wright-Clayton out of the vehicle, and to conduct a pat-down search of his person based on their belief that there was a safety issue involved. The Superior Court denied Wright-Clayton's motion to suppress.[10]

         13. The suppression issue was then raised on direct appeal, and the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Superior Court on the basis of and for the reasons stated by the Superior Court in its bench ruling at the suppression hearing.[11]


         14. On April 10, 2017, Defendant filed a pro se motion for postconviction relief. Defendant was thereafter assigned counsel.

         15. On June 13, 2018, assigned counsel filed a Motion to Withdraw as Postconviction Counsel pursuant to Superior Court Criminal Rule 61(e)(6).

         16. Superior Court Criminal Rule 61 (e)(6) provides that:

If counsel considers the movant's claim to be so lacking in merit that counsel cannot ethically advocate it, and counsel is not aware of any other substantial ground for relief available to the movant, counsel may move to withdraw. The motion shall explain the factual and legal basis for counsel's opinion and shall give notice that the movant may file a response to the motion within 30 days of service of the motion upon the movant.

         17. In the motion to withdraw, Wright-Clayton's Rule 61 counsel represented that, after undertaking a thorough analysis of the Defendant's claims, counsel has determined that the claims are so lacking in merit that counsel cannot ethically advocate any of them.[12] Counsel further represented that, following a thorough review of the record, counsel was not aware of any other substantial claim for relief available to Wright-Clayton.[13] Defendant's Rule 61 counsel represented to the court that there are no potential meritorious grounds on which to base a Rule 61 motion and has therefore sought to withdraw as counsel.[14]

         18. On July 5, 2018, Wright-Clayton opposed counsel's motion to withdraw and raised additional issues and supplemental points that he wanted the court to consider as part of his Rule 61 motion.[15] On July 12, 2018, Wright-Clayton supplemented his submission with additional points for consideration.[16]

         19. In order to evaluate Wright-Clayton's Rule 61 motion and to determine whether his Rule 61 counsel's motion to withdraw should be granted, the court should be satisfied that Rule 61 counsel made a conscientious examination of the record and the law for claims that could arguable support Wright-Clayton's Rule 61 motion. In addition, the court should conduct its own review of the record in order to determine ...

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