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State v. Blenman

Superior Court of Delaware, Kent

December 11, 2018

STATE OF DELAWARE
v.
TURHAN BLENMAN, Defendant.

         RK14-06-0434-01 RK14-06-0435-01 PFBPP PABPP

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

          Jason C. Cohee, Esquire, Deputy Attorney General, Department of Justice, for the State of Delaware.

          Turhan Blenman, Pro se.

          COMMISSIONER'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Andrea M. Freud Commissioner.

         The defendant, Turhan Blenman ("Blenman") was found guilty as charged, following a Bench trial on June 16, 2015, of two counts of Possession of a Firearm by a Person Prohibited, 11 Del. C. § 1448(a)(9). Prior to trial the State dismissed a number of additional offenses including Drug Dealing and Possession of a Firearm During Commission of a Felony. On August 27, 2017, the Court sentenced Blenman to six years minimum mandatory time incarceration followed by one year of probation.

         A timely Notice of Appeal to the Delaware Supreme Court was filed. Blenman's Trial Counsel filed a brief and motion to withdraw pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 26(c). In the motion to withdraw, appellate counsel represented that she conducted a conscientious review of the record and concluded that no meritorious issues existed. By letter, counsel informed Blenman of the provisions of Rule 26(c) and attached a copy of the motion to withdraw and accompanying brief. Blenman was informed of his right to supplement his attorney's presentation. Blenman, pro se, raised eight issues for appeal for the Supreme Court to consider, which the Supreme Court classified as follows:

(10) Blenman's arguments on appeal may be summarized as follows: (i) the State violated Brady v. Maryland and Superior Court Rule 16 by failing to collect the blanket wrapped around the rifles, take photographs of the first floor bedroom closet where the rifles were discovered, and collect the clothes in the closet; (ii) he was denied his right to challenge the search warrant; (iii) he was denied his right to a speedy trial; (iv) he was not given the opportunity to examine the evidence offered by the State at trial; (v) the State failed to provide him with exculpatory evidence in a timely manner; (vi) he was denied his right to present exculpatory evidence; (vii) there was insufficient evidence to support his convictions; and (vii) ineffective assistance of counsel.[1]

         On October 7, 2016, Blenman filed a motion for postconviction relief pursuant to Superior Court Criminal Rule 61. On October 28, 2016 he filed a motion for appointment of counsel. He raised four grounds for relief including ineffective assistance of counsel. On November 18, 2016, the Court granted the motion for appointment of counsel, and on May 30, 2107, Brian T. N. Jordan, Esq. ("Appointed Counsel") was appointed to represent Blenman. After an extremely thorough and conscientious review of the facts, the record and the law in the case, Appointed Counsel filed a motion to withdraw as counsel on October 16, 2017, along with a memorandum in support of the motion, having concluded that the motion was wholly without merit and that no meritorious grounds for relief existed. Thereafter, on February 13, 2018, the Court requested that Appointed Counsel supplement his motion to further address one of Blenman's claims. The supplement was filed by Appointed Counsel on March 5, 2018. Blenman was sent a copy of the motion to withdraw and given 30 days to file a response. Appointed Counsel's motion to withdraw was granted by the Court on March 23, 2018.[2]

         Next Blenman moved to amend his pro se motion for postconviction relief on July 16, 2018, after his Trial Counsel and the State had responded to his initial motion. After several revised brief schedules the matter finally completed briefing and was sent for decision.

         FACTS

         Following are the facts as set forth by the Delaware Supreme Court:

(4) The basic facts from the trial record that explain the evidence presented at trial provide context for an examination of Blenman's many claims of potential error.
One key body of evidence involved testimony regarding the search during which weapons were found at Blenman's house. The trial transcript in this case reflects that, on June 11, 2014, the Dover Police Department executed a search warrant for a house at 28 Vera Way in Dover, Delaware. When the police entered the house, a small child, the child's mother, and Blenman's mother were present. Steven Huey and Chrissy Guzman, who was Blenman's girlfriend, arrived while the police were searching the house.
(5) The first floor of the house contained a living room, kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom. Corporal Aaron Dickinson testified that he found multiple pieces of mail bearing Blenman's name and a different address in the first floor bedroom. Corporal Dickinson also found a business card with Blenman's name. Corporal Dickinson did not recall if he saw mail bearing a name other than Blenman's name.
(6) Corporal Dickson testified that he looked in a closet located in the first floor bedroom, but did not search it. Corporal Dickinson did not recall if he saw women's clothing or a purse in the first floor bedroom. An inventory of the items seized during the search reflected that a purse was found in the first floor bedroom. Corporal Dickinson was also on the second floor of the house, but only recalled searching a closet where he found a postage box addressed to Blenman at 28 Vera Way. According to Detective Anthony DiGirolomo, there was a small bedroom on the second floor with a small bed and a child's belongings and another room that was basically empty.
(7) Detective Christopher Bumgarner testified that when he looked in the closet in the first floor bedroom he saw a rifle barrel sticking out of a blanket. Two rifles were wrapped in the blanket. Detective Bumgarner testified that the closet contained men's clothing and that he did not recall seeing any women's clothing in the closet or house. Detective DiGirolomo indicated that most of the clothing in the first floor bedroom belonged to a man, but there were possibly a few items of women's clothing. He did not see any female toiletries in the bathroom off of the first floor bedroom. No ammunition was found in the house.
(8) The other key evidence against Blenman was his own recorded statement. Detective DiGirolomo testified at trial that Blenman eventually arrived at the house during the search and was taken into custody. After receiving Miranda warnings, Blenman chose to speak to Detective DiGirolomo. The interview was played at trial. During the interview, Blenman stated that he and his son were the only people who lived at 28 Vera Way. Blenman further stated that he had paid cash for the rifles and that the rifles had not been used in any crimes.
(9) The defense did not call any witnesses at trial. The parties stipulated that Blenman was a person prohibited from owning or possession firearms. The Superior Court found that Blenman was guilty of PFBPP. This appeal followed.[3]
BLENMAN'S CONTENTIONS

         In his initial motion, Blenman raises the following grounds for relief:

Ground one: Ineffective assistance of counsel for failing to file a motion to suppress evidence.
Ground two: Blenman alleges the search warrant was inadequate because it did not list firearms as something sought.
Ground three: Blenman alleges that there was inadequate testing of the heroin ...

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