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State v. Weiford
Superior Court of Delaware, Kent
January 25, 2019
STATE OF DELAWARE,
DARREN C. WEIFORD, Defendant.
Submitted: January 22, 2019
Defendant's Motion for Correction of Sentence - DENIED
JEFFREY J. CLARK JUDGE.
25th day of January, 2019, having considered Defendant Darren
Weiford's ("Mr. Weiford's") motion for
correction of sentence, it appears that:
1. The Court sentenced Mr. Weiford to an aggregate
unsuspended Level V sentence of thirty-three years for Murder
in the Second Degree, and Possession of a Firearm During the
Commission of a Felony. Both charges involved Mr.
Weiford's murder of Amber Buckler ("Ms.
Buckler") on June 1, 2017.
2. He now moves the Court to correct his sentence pursuant to
Superior Court Criminal Rule 35(c) because he alleges the
Court lacked impartiality. The rule he relies upon provides
for correcting a sentence by motion when it "was imposed
as a result of arithmetical, technical, or other clear
3. Mr. Weiford did not raise the issues at his sentencing
that he now challenges. The Court notes that it concluded the
sentencing by specifically inviting counsel to raise any
additional matters. Defense counsel declined to do so.
4. For the first time, Mr. Weiford now asserts by motion that
he did not share with his attorney a pre-sentencing letter
that he sent to the Court requesting leniency. As a result,
he alleges the Court violated his constitutional due process
rights because his letter to the Court was an ex
parte communication. Namely, he alleges that the Court
violated his "Delaware constitutional due process rights
at his allocution" by considering the letter because his
attorney did not know that he had written it.
5. Here, Mr. Weiford incorrectly characterizes his own letter
as an ex parte communication that violated his right
to due process. In order to generate a right to relief from
judgment on due process grounds, there must be "an
ex parte conversation, which by definition deprives
a defendant of the right to be heard . .
."Only when a defendant lacks notice
of a communication from the State is he or she
deprived of the right to be properly heard on an
issue. A defendant's due process rights may
be violated when the State one-sidedly interjects information
into the process that the defendant is unaware of and
therefore cannot address. Here, the Defendant does not claim
that the State provided information to the Court without his
knowledge. Rather, he complains that the Court reviewed and
considered a letter that he apparently chose not to share
with his privately retained attorney.
6. Prior to sentencing, the Court reviewed the presentence
report, its exhibits, and Mr. Weiford's letter that was
forwarded shortly after completion of the presentence report.
The Court was unaware that he chose not to disclose to his
attorney that he sent a letter. Defendants frequently write
the Court prior to sentencing in support of leniency and the
Court considers such letters. Statements in such letters fall
within the right to allocution and are appropriately
considered.This right to allocution involves the right
for the defendant to personally address the Court, in
addition to the separate right of counsel to individually
address the Court.
7. Contrary to Mr. Weiford's position, it is not the role
of the Court to interject itself into the attorney-client
relationship to regulate what information a client shares
with his attorney. Prior to receipt of this motion, the Court
had every expectation that Mr. Weiford had shared his letter
with his counsel. Moreover, counsel's statements at the
sentencing confirmed the Court's at-the-time
understanding. Namely, the opening sentences in his
presentation closely tracked the themes in Mr. Weiford's
letter. Counsel referenced Mr. Weiford's statements
requesting leniency and that he be sentenced for an offense
less serious than Murder in the Second Degree. He then
characterized Mr. Weiford's statements, that were found
both in the letter and made by him to the presentence
officer, as "an attempt to gain attention." At
sentencing, the Court understood that counsel's comments
addressed what Mr. Weiford raised both in his presentence
interview and in the letter at issue.
8. The Court presumes that a defendant's attorney spends
adequate time with his or her client to address such matters.
Defense counsel represented to the Court at sentencing that
he and Mr. Weiford met frequently prior to the sentencing to
discuss strategy. As a result, the Court does not question
counsel's diligent preparation for the sentencing. The
Court expects that a defendant and his attorney would discuss
both the propriety and content of any such letter before a
client sends it to the Court. The Court further should be
able to reasonably expect that in final preparation for
sentencing a client would disclose to his attorney that he
sent a letter to the Court. Mr. Weiford apparently chose not
to. His own choice does not amount to a Court violation of
his due process rights.
9. Despite multiple mental health examinations, no mental
health professional opined that Mr. Weiford was incompetent
to fully cooperate with his counsel when preparing for
sentencing. In fact, all opinions confirmed that he was
competent. Mr. Weiford's motion, in effect, seeks to
place the burden on the Court to interject itself into the
attorney-client relationship to weigh the adequacy of a
client's disclosures to his or her attorney. Prudence
certainly weighs in favor of a client sharing all such
information. Seeking to place the after-the-fact burden on
the Court to ensure such an exchange is not appropriate.
10. With regard to Mr. Weiford's allegations that the
Court should reassign the matter to another judge for
purposes of resentencing, he cites no adequate basis for such
action. The Court considered the undisputed facts that Mr.
Weiford aimed at and shot his fiancé in the head at
close range as she slept in a hotel bed, without warning. The
Court found this to be excessively cruel. This murder
followed his detailed posting on social media, one month
earlier, that amounted to a script for carrying out his plan.
Although the State offered, and he accepted, a Murder in the
Second Degree plea, the circumstances could not have pointed
more strongly to that of an intentional killing. Furthermore,
as discussed by the ...
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