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State v. Jones

Superior Court of Delaware

January 30, 2019

STATE OF DELAWARE,
v.
MICHAEL L. JONES, Defendant.

          ORDER ON MOTIONS FOR POSTCONVICTION RELIEF AND MOTION FOR APPOINTMENT OF COUNSEL

         AND NOW TO WIT, this 30th day of January, 2019, upon consideration of Defendant's Third and Fourth Motions for Postconviction Relief[1] and Motion for Appointment of Counsel, IT APPEARS THAT:

         1. On January 27, 2005, a jury found Michael Jones ("Jones") guilty of fifteen felonies, including multiple murder charges.[2] Jones was sentenced on September 16, 2005.[3]

         2. Jones filed an appeal of his conviction on October 12, 2005.[4] The Delaware Supreme Court remanded the appeal for an evidentiary hearing which the Court held on June 5, 2007.[5] Following me hearing, the Court, on July 3, 2007, issued its ruling.[6] The Supreme Court affirmed Jones' conviction on December 12, 2007 and issued its Mandate on January 3, 2008.[7]

         3. Thereafter, Jones, on May 21, 2008, filed a pro se motion for postconviction relief (the "First Postconviction Motion") under Superior Court Criminal Rule 61.[8] On May 30, 2008, the Superior Court Judge assigned to oversee the Court's conflict program appointed counsel ("Rule 61 Counsel") to represent Jones in connection with the First Postconviction Motion.[9]

         4. Notwithstanding that appointment, the Superior Court Judge who presided over Jones' trial, and was assigned to the First Postconviction Motion, does not appear to have provided notice of the appointment of Rule 61 Counsel. Thus, Jones presented the First Postconviction Motion to the Court without the assistance of counsel. Without waiting for briefing or argument, the assigned Superior Court Judge denied the First Postconviction Motion on September 3, 2008.[10]

         5. On October 23, 2008, Rule 61 Counsel filed and prosecuted an appeal of the Court's decision on the First Postconviction Motion.[11] The Delaware Supreme Court, after briefing and oral argument, affirmed the Court's decision on the First Postconviction Motion.[12]

         6. Next, Jones sought relief in the Federal Courts by filing a writ of habeas corpus in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware which the District Court denied[13] Jones appealed that denial to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. After granting Jones' application for an appeal on three issues, the Third Circuit appointed counsel to represent Jones on the appeal.[14] On January 30, 2015, after receiving briefing on the issues, the Third Circuit denied the appeal.[15]

         7. Jones then moved to be resentenced pursuant to 11 Del. C, § 4204A and 4209A and Superior Court Criminal Rules of Procedure 35A, following the United States Supreme Court's decision in Miller v. Alabama[16]. The Court granted Jones' request for appointment of counsel.[17] On June 30, 2014, the Court held a sentencing hearing wherein the Court resentenced Jones to three life sentences for the Murder First Degree convictions.[18] No appeal was taken from this resentencing.

         8. On June 23, 2015, Jones, through his counsel, filed a Motion for Postconviction Relief (the "Second Postconviction Motion")[19] and an Amended Opening Brief in support of the Second Postconviction Motion[20]. Thereafter, the State filed a Motion for Summary Dismissal[21] to which Jones filed a Response[22] and an Amended Response[23]. The State filed a Reply.[24] The Court heard oral argument on May 16, 2016.[25]

         9. The Court decided Jones' Second Postconviction Motion under Criminal Rule 61 which was effective June 1, 2015.[26] Under this version of Criminal Rule 61, Jones must overcome four procedural bars to obtain postconviction relief:

a. (1) bars the filing of a motion in excess of one year of the final judgment of conviction;
b. (2) bars successive motions unless the motion satisfies the pleading requirements of Rule 61(d)(2)(i) or (d)(2)(ii);
c. (3) bars consideration of non-asserted claims unless Defendant shows "cause for relief from the procedural default" and "prejudice from violation of movant's rights";
d. (4) bars any ground for relief which was previously adjudicated, including proceedings leading to the judgment of conviction, in an appeal, in a postconviction proceeding or in a federal habeas corpus proceeding.[27]

         10. The bars set forth in Criminal Rule 61(i)1-4 are not applicable "to a claim that the court lacked jurisdiction or to a claim that satisfies the pleading requirements of subparagraphs (2)(i)or (2)(ii) of subdivision (d) of [Criminal Rule 61]".[28]

         11. With regard to preliminary consideration of second or subsequent postconviction motions under to Criminal Rule 61(d)(2), the motion shall be summarily dismissed, unless the movant was convicted after a trial and the motion either:

(i) pleads with particularity that new evidence exists that creates a strong inference that the movant is actually innocent in fact of the acts underlying the charges of which he was convicted; or
(ii) pleads with particularity that a claim that a new rule of constitutional law, made retroactive to cases on collateral review by the United States Supreme Court or the Delaware Supreme Court, applies to the movant's case and renders the conviction or death sentence invalid.[29]

         12. On December 16, 2016, the Court held that Jones' Second Postconviction Motion "was procedurally barred and should be summarily dismissed."[30]

         13. Jones filed a Third Postconviction Motion[31] on July 19, 2018 and a Fourth Postconviction Motion[32] on September 17, 2018. Additionally, he filed a Motion for Appointment of Counsel on October 1, 2018.[33]

         14. In the Third Postconviction Motion, Jones raises various arguments that his appointed counsel who handled his re-sentencing was ineffective because appointed counsel failed to appeal the re-sentencing and failed to timely file a Rule 61 motion regarding the re-sentencing. Jones also asserts that "the felony murder conviction should be vacated because the evidence shows the murder was not in furtherance of Robbery first degree." He further asserts that his trial counsel was ineffective by failing to "properly investigate evidence demonstrating [his] innocence" and was "ineffective during trial and in direct appeal." Last, Jones argues the "[r]e-sentencing was disproportionate to the other juvenile re-sentencings under 11 Del. C. 4204A and 4209A."

         15. In the Fourth Postconviction Motion, Jones reiterates the same allegations as set forth in his Third Postconviction Motion with the addition of a new claim that his counsel was ineffective for failing to conduct a "survey of all re-sentenced juveniles to show the disparity between ...


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