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Rowan v. State

Supreme Court of Delaware

December 10, 2018

BRUCE ROWAN, Defendant Below, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF DELAWARE, Plaintiff Below, Appellee.

          Submitted: September 21, 2018

          Court Below: Superior Court of the State of Delaware Cr. ID No. 0910020105 (K)

          Before VALIHURA, VAUGHN, and SEITZ, Justices.

          ORDER

          James T. Vaughn, Jr. Justice.

         (1) The appellant, Bruce Rowan, filed this appeal from the Superior Court's April 13, 2018 order that adopted a Commissioner's report and recommendation[1] and denied Rowan's motion for postconviction relief. We find no merit to the appeal. Accordingly, we affirm the Superior Court's judgment.

         (2) Rowan was indicted on criminal charges, including fifteen counts of fourth degree rape, for having allegedly had sexual intercourse with a sixteen-year-old girl. Rowan also was indicted on charges that, after his December 2009 arraignment on the sexual offenses, he initiated telephone contact with the alleged victim in violation of a no-contact order. After a four-day trial in 2010, a Superior Court jury convicted Rowan of one count of continuous sexual abuse of a child, five counts of fourth degree rape, and fifty-six counts of breach of condition of release. At sentencing, the Superior Court declared Rowan a habitual offender and sentenced him to a total of 120 years of unsuspended Level V incarceration. On direct appeal, we affirmed Rowan's convictions and sentence.[2]

         (3) Rowan filed a timely motion for postconviction relief in 2013 and was appointed counsel. After reviewing the record and finding no ground for relief to advocate on behalf of Rowan, postconviction counsel filed a motion and supporting memorandum seeking leave to withdraw. Rowan filed a memorandum opposing his counsel's position that the record presented no grounds for relief. The Superior Court granted postconviction counsel's motion to withdraw and referred Rowan's pro se motion for postconviction relief to a Superior Court Commissioner for a report and recommendation.

         (4) At the direction of the Commissioner, Rowan's trial counsel filed an affidavit responding to Rowan's allegations of ineffective assistance of counsel, the State filed a response to the postconviction motion, and Rowan filed a reply. Thereafter, the Commissioner issued a report recommending that the Superior Court should deny Rowan's postconviction motion as procedurally barred and without merit. Rowan filed objections to the report and recommendation. After reviewing the matter de novo, the Superior Court issued an order on April 13, 2018, adopting the report and recommendation and denying Rowan's postconviction motion.

         (5) On appeal, Rowan argues that the Superior Court should have granted him postconviction relief because (i) his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to request "a reasonable doubt instruction based upon fraudulent concealment" by the victim and her parents of the victim's age; (ii) neither the court nor his trial counsel advised him at the December 2009 arraignment that the previously-imposed no-contact order was still in effect; and (iii) his sexual intercourse with the sixteen-year-old victim was lawful because he and the victim had "a spousal relationship." Rowan raised other claims in his postconviction motion, but he has not pursued those claims on appeal.[3] We review the Superior Court's denial of postconviction relief for abuse of discretion and review questions of law de novo.[4]

         (6) Rowan was charged and convicted of fourth degree rape under 11 Del. C. § 770(a)(2), which provides:

(a) A person is guilty of rape in the fourth degree when the person:
* * *
(2) Intentionally engages in sexual intercourse with another person, and the victim has not yet reached that victim's eighteenth birthday, and the person is 30 years of age or older, except that such intercourse shall not be unlawful if the victim and person are married at the time of such intercourse[.][5]

         (7) In his postconviction motion, Rowan challenged his fourth degree rape convictions based on claims that the evidence at trial raised reasonable doubt of his guilt because the sixteen-year-old victim lied to him about her age-telling him that she was twenty-three-and her parents concealed her age from him as well. On appeal, Rowan recasts ...


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