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Trotter v. State
Supreme Court of Delaware
November 21, 2018
JOHN E. TROTTER, Defendant Below, Appellant,
STATE OF DELAWARE, Plaintiff Below, Appellee.
Submitted: September 21, 2018
Below: Superior Court of the State of Delaware Cr. ID Nos.
1607007011, 1608012612 (N)
VALIHURA, VAUGHN, and SEITZ, Justices.
T. VAUGHN, JR. JUSTICE.
consideration of the appellant's brief filed under
Supreme Court Rule 26(c), his attorney's motion to
withdraw, and the State's response, the Court concludes
(1) On October 3, 2017, the appellant, John E. Trotter,
resolved two cases by pleading guilty to Assault in the
Second Degree in Criminal ID No. 1607007011 and Drug Dealing
(Tier 4), Conspiracy in the Second Degree, and Possession of
a Destructive Weapon in Criminal ID No. 1608012612. On
January 12, 2018, Trotter filed a pro se motion to
withdraw his guilty plea. On February 16, 2018, the Superior
Court denied the motion and sentenced Trotter to a total of
eighteen years of Level V incarceration, suspended after
eight years for Level II probation. This is Trotter's
(2) On appeal, Trotter's counsel ("Counsel")
filed a brief and a motion to withdraw under Supreme Court
Rule 26(c). Counsel asserts that, based upon a complete and
careful examination of the record, there are no arguably
appealable issues. Counsel informed Trotter of the provisions
of Rule 26(c) and provided Trotter with a copy of the motion
to withdraw and the accompanying brief.
(3) Counsel also informed Trotter of his right to identify
any points he wished this Court to consider on appeal.
Trotter has submitted arguments for this Court's
consideration. The State has responded to Trotter's
arguments and has moved to affirm the Superior Court's
(4) When reviewing a motion to withdraw and an accompanying
brief under Rule 26(c), this Court must: (i) be satisfied
that defense counsel has made a conscientious examination of
the record and the law for arguable claims; and (ii) 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
(5) Trotter's arguments on appeal may be summarized as
follows: (i) he was constructively deprived of his right to
counsel and coerced into pleading guilty by the Superior
Court's erroneous denial of his request for new counsel;
(ii) he was coerced into pleading guilty by the Superior
Court's improper participation in plea negotiations;
(iii) the Superior Court erred in denying his motion to
withdraw his guilty plea; and (iv) his right to a speedy
trial was violated. After careful consideration, we find no
merit to Trotter's appeal.
(6) The disposition of Trotter's claims depends upon this
Court's determination of whether Trotter entered a
knowing and voluntary guilty plea and whether the Superior
Court erred in denying Trotter's motion to withdraw his
guilty plea. A knowing and voluntary guilty plea waives any
objection to alleged errors and defects before entry of the
plea. The record in this case reflects that
Trotter knowingly and voluntarily entered his guilty plea.
(7) In the summer of 2017, Trotter and Counsel informed the
Superior Court that Trotter was displeased with his
counsel's representation. At an August 18, 2017 hearing
and status conference, the Superior Court told Trotter that
he would listen to his concerns and Counsel's comments,
but warned him that a defendant's unhappiness with
counsel would not typically entitle him to the appointment of
new counsel. Instead, he would have the option of
representing himself with standby counsel.
(8) Counsel told the Superior Court that the attorney-client
relationship had been difficult because he was unable, until
recently, to share much of the State's discovery material
with Trotter due to the protective order. He admitted that he
had recently lost his temper and yelled at Trotter because he
would not consider a reasonable plea offer that was obtained
after extensive negotiations with the State. Trotter
expressed dissatisfaction with delays in the case, the fact
that he had not seen all of the discovery, and Counsel's
refusal to separate both of his cases, to move to sever his
case from the cases of his co-defendants in Criminal ID No.
1608012612, and to file a motion to suppress.
(9) In response, the Superior Court noted that Criminal ID
No. 1608012612 was complicated and involved multiple
defendants, the former prosecutor had left and new
prosecutors had to get up to speed on the case, Criminal ID
No. 1607007011 and Criminal ID No. 1608012612 were separate
cases with different trial dates, and co-defendants in cases
involving the same facts and witnesses were often tried
together. The Superior Court concluded that appointment ...
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