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State v. Hardy

Superior Court of Delaware

January 9, 2019


          Submitted: November 30, 2018

         On Defendant's Motion for Postconviction Relief. DENIED.

          Matthew B. Frawley, Esquire, Deputy Attorney General, Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware, Attorney for the State.

          Pleasant J. Hardy, James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, Smyrna, Delaware, pro se.


          RICHARD R. COOCH, R.J.

         This 9th day of January, 2019, upon consideration of Defendant's Motion for Postconviction Relief, it appears to the Court that:

1. On July 5, 2017, Pleasant J. Hardy ("Defendant") pled guilty to two counts of Burglary Second Degree, and two counts of Theft Less Than $1500.[1] At sentencing, on September 22, 2017, the State moved to declare Defendant a Habitual Offender pursuant to 11 Del. C. § 4214(c) as to one count of Burglary Second Degree. The motion was granted and Defendant was declared a Habitual Offender as to one count of Burglary Second Degree.[2] Thereafter, Defendant was sentenced to eight years unsuspended Level V incarceration as to Count One -Burglary Second Degree; one year unsuspended Level V incarceration as to the Count Three - Burglary Second Degree; and twelve months Level III concurrent probation as to the Counts Two and Four - Theft Less Than $1500.[3] Defendant did not appeal his sentence to the Delaware Supreme Court.
2. Defendant filed a timely pro se Motion for Postconviction Relief on May 22, 2018.[4] This Court ordered Defendant's prior court-appointed trial counsel to submit an affidavit addressing ineffective assistance of counsel allegations raised in Defendant's motion.[5] This Court also ordered the State to respond to Defendant's motion and prior counsel's affidavit.[6] Prior counsel's affidavit was filed on August 16, 2018. The State's Response was filed on September 26, 2018. This Court afforded Defendant an opportunity to file a Reply to both prior counsel's affidavit and the State's Response on or before November 30, 2018, but Defendant did not do so.[7]
3. In his Motion, Defendant raises four grounds for relief:
Ground one: Denied (me) the right to a speedy trial. The [a]ttorney who was representing me told me on two seperate [sic] court dates that we couldn't move forward because case hadn't been appointed a judge.
Ground two: ineffective assistance of counsel. [I was appointed a] public defender. [The public defender] told me on two court dates that we couldn't move [f]orward because a judge hadn't been appointed but in all actuality the State was "investigating" my prior cases in Houston, Texas. [W]asn't made aware until my last case review.
Ground three: unfulfilled plea agreement. Court Judge s[e]ntenced the defendant to 5 years level 5 but that wasn't in the plea agreement.
The Court asked for a P.S.I but didn't go with the P.S.I recommendation[.]
[Ground four:] State failed to inform the defendant whom was representing himself pro se that he had the right to challenge the motion to be declared an Habitual Offender. That fact wasn't listed in none of the motions that the State forwarded to the defendant.[8]
4. In prior counsel's affidavit, prior counsel denied grounds one and two, and avers that ground three is inapplicable to prior counsel's representation of Defendant.[9] The State responded that each ground raised by Defendant was procedurally barred by Superior Court Criminal Rule 6l(i)(4). Rule 6l(i)(4) prohibits postconviciton relief when the postconviction claims have been formerly adjudicated.[10] The State argues Defendant engaged in a lengthy plea colloquy prior to his guilty plea, and the State likewise presented an "equally-lengthy factual basis for the plea."[11] As such, the State argues each of Defendant's claims were previously adjudicated and procedurally barred.
5. Notwithstanding the procedural deficiencies, the State also addressed the substantive merits of Defendant's motion. The State argues that each claim is without merit. First, the State contends that Defendant's speedy trial rights were not denied because there were no continuances or delays, and Defendant's trial was ready to begin within five months from the indictment. Second, the State argues that prior counsel was serving Defendant's best interests by requiring the State to confirm out-of-state convictions before subjecting Defendant to a habitual offender sentence. Thus, "there was nothing ineffective about" prior counsel's representation.[12] Third, the State argues that the Court need not follow the sentencing recommendation in the plea agreement and that Court could have lawfully sentenced Defendant to life in prison as an habitual offender. Lastly, the State argues Defendant was fully aware of the habitual offender motion, and, as the person in the best position to know what his criminal history was, had an opportunity to dispute the State's motion.
6. Rule 61 is the remedy for defendants "in custody under a sentence of this court seeking to set aside the judgment of conviction[.]"[13] Rule 61 delineates certain "bars to relief which prevent a defendant from seeking relief in certain circumstances.[14] First, under Rule 6l(i)(1), a motion for postconviction relief "may not be filed more than one year after the judgment of conviction is final[.]" [15] Defendant filed his motion eight months after his sentencing. His motion his timely.
7. Although timely, Defendant's motion is entirely barred under Rule 6l(i)(4). Under Rule 6l(i)(4) any ground for relief is barred if it "was formerly adjudicated, whether in the proceedings leading to the judgment of conviction, in an appeal, in a postconvcition proceeding or in a federal habeas corpus proceeding[.]"[16] It appears to the Court that each of Defendant's four grounds were previously adjudicated in the proceedings leading to his guilty plea and the judgment of conviction. The Court engaged in a lengthy plea colloquy with Defendant prior to his guilty plea. Defendant admitted he committed each offense charged.[17] Defendant read, understood, and waived his right to a speedy trial and his right to a public trial by jury.[18] He stated he understood that he faced a possible penalty of a mandatory minimum eight years Level V up to a maximum life in prison, because of his habitual offender status.[19] Defendant acknowledged that he was not promised what his sentence would be.[20] Defendant was fully apprised by prior counsel of his right to challenge the State's habitual offender motion.[21] Each of Defendant's grounds for postconviciton relief were discussed and addressed at his plea hearing. Thus, his claims are barred under Rule 6l(i)(4).
8. Nevertheless, the Court will address the substantive merits of Defendant's claims. Defendant's first ground asserts he was denied his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial. The Court finds his claim lacks merit. To ensure the right to a speedy trial is preserved, the Court considers several factors. These are: "(1) the length of the delay; (2) the reason for the delay; (3) the defendant's assertion of his right; and (4) prejudice to the defendant."[22] Defendant was arrested on January 3, 2017, and held on $5, 000 secured bail.[23] A February 22, 2017, scheduling order scheduled Defendant's trial for July 5, 2017, five months later.[24] This date was not altered by subsequent proceedings. His trial would have occurred on ...

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