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State v. Purnell

Superior Court of Delaware, Kent

October 31, 2018

STATE OF DELAWARE,
v.
AARON T. PURNELL, Defendant.

         RK16-08-0323-01 ATT Murder 1st (F) RK16-08-0324-01 PFDCF (F)

         COMMISSIONER'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

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

          Stephen R. Welch, Jr., Deputy Attorney General, Department of Justice, for the State of Delaware.

          Aaron T. Purnell, Pro se.

          Andrea M. Freud Commissioner

         The defendant, Aaron T. Purnell ("Purnell"), pled guilty on June 19, 2017 the day he was scheduled to go to trial, after he had initially rejected the State's plea offer and the jury had been picked, to one count of Attempted Murder in the First Degree, 11 Del. C. § 531, and one count of Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony ("PFDCF"), 11 Del. C. § 1447A. In exchange for his plea the State entered nolleprosequis on the remaining counts including three additional counts of PFDCF, one count of Possession of a Firearm by a Person Prohibited, one count of Aggravated Menacing, one count of Reckless Endangering in the First Degree, one count of Resisting Arrest with Force, and one count of Theft of a Firearm. As part of the Plea Agreement the State agreed to recommend a sentence of forty-three years incarceration, suspended after serving twenty-eight years, for probation. Due to the nature of the charges and Purnell's criminal history, he faced enhanced sentencing and a total of life in prison plus 122 years had he been found guilty of all the charges. The Court agreed with the State's recommendation and sentenced Purnell to a total of forty-three years incarceration suspended after twenty-eight years for probation, eighteen of which were minimum mandatory. On July 19, 2017, Purnell, through counsel, filed a Motion for Modification of Sentence which the Court denied on September 11, 2017. Purnell did not appeal his conviction or sentence to the Delaware Supreme Court. He filed, pro se, the pending motion for postconviction pursuant to Superior Court Criminal Rule 61 on April 3, 2017 alleging, in part, ineffective assistance of counsel.

         FACTS

         Purnell was arrested on July 28, 2016, in connection with a shooting incident which had occurred at Alder Park Apartments south of Dover on July 24, 2016. On that date, Corporal Edwin Justiniano ("Cpl. Justiniano") of the Delaware State Police responded to a complaint that a man had pushed a woman in the commons area outside one of the apartment buildings and had displayed a firearm. Upon arriving at Alder Park Apartments at approximately 8:20 p.m., Cpl. Justiniano saw Purnell in the area where the complaint had been reported; he could see that Purnell appeared to match the description of the assailant. Cpl. Justiniano told Pumell to "come over here," at which point Purnell and another individual who was in the area fled on foot behind one of the nearby apartment buildings. Cpl. Justiniano, who was alone, gave chase. The second individual soon veered off and ran in a different direction from Purnell. Cpl. Justinano chose to let that person go and continued to chase Purnell.

         As Cpl. Justiniano pursued Purnell behind the building, Purnell turned and fired a shot at him from a distance of about 15 or 20 feet. Luckily, the shot missed. Cpl. Justiniano immediately returned fire but his shots also missed. He continued to follow the fleeing Purnell, who took a circuitous route but was eventually found in a bush in a nearby backyard. Police located a 9 mm pistol in the bush; this firearm was later determined to have fired a 9 mm shell casing found at the scene of the shooting. When the shooting occurred, it was not yet dark; for this reason, Cpl. Justiano was easily able to identify Purnell as the person who tried to shoot him. Cpl. Justiniano's motor vehicle recorder was operating at the time of the incident and preserved an audio recording of Cpl. Justiniano's initial verbal interactions with Purnell and of the shots which were filed. The incident occurred out of range of the camera so there was no visual recording.[1]

         Purnell'S CONTENTIONS

         In Purnell's Motion for Postconviction Relief he raises the following grounds for relief:

Ground one: Ineffective Assistance of Counsel.
I try (sic) to get another counsel on records. In Judge Witham said keep him are (sic) rep myself. I don't know the law so I ...

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