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State v. Page

Superior Court of Delaware

February 26, 2019

STATE OF DELAWARE, Plaintiff,
v.
DARREL D. PAGE, Defendant.

          Submitted: December 18, 2018

         COMMISSIONER'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION THAT DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR POSTCONVICTION RELIEF SHOULD BE SUMMARILY DISMISSED AND MOTION FOR APPOINTMENT OF COUNSEL SHOULD BE DENIED.

          Sean P. Lugg, Esquire, Deputy Attorney General, Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware, Attorney for the State.

          Darrel Page, James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, Smyrna, Delaware, pro se.

          PARKER, COMMISSIONER.

         On December 11, 2018, Defendant Darrel Page filed the subject Rule 6 1 motion, his seventh Rule 6 1 motion.

         OVERVIEW

         In the subject motion, Page claims that the trial transcript of June 11, 2003 is no longer available, and therefore he is prevented from raising a prosecutorial misconduct claim stemming from the prosecutor's closing argument. Page, who is serving three life sentences and a term of years resulting from first degree murder convictions and other robbery and weapons convictions, seeks to have his convictions and sentences reversed because the trial transcript is no longer available.

         The trial transcript of June 11, 2003 was transcribed and was available during all the critical stages of the proceedings: sentencing, direct appeal, and Page's first Rule 61 motion. Page was represented by counsel during all these critical stages of the case. Whatever meritorious issues that Page, with the assistance of counsel, desired to raise were raised on direct appeal and/or in Page's first Rule 61 motion, based on the full trial record.

         This case illustrates why time-limitations are placed on the presentation of claims, and why those time-limitations must be adhered to. The trial was held in 2003. In 2011, Page requested a copy of this trial transcript at the State's expense. The Superior Court denied that request.

         Page waited until December 2018, fifteen years after the trial, and seven years after he was denied the right to obtain a copy of this trial transcript at the State's expense, to seek to obtain a price quote in order to decide whether he wanted to purchase a copy of the trial transcript at his own expense.

         By this late date, Page's lead counsel representing him at his first Rule 61 motion had retired, closed his office, and relocated. The court reporter that recorded his trial had retired and relocated. The Superior Court's file no longer contains this trial transcript. While it is conceivable that the State or the Delaware Supreme Court can still locate this trial transcript in their respective files, any effort to do so is unnecessary. Any potential claim that Page may have asserted stemming from the prosecutor's closing argument has long since been time-barred and is otherwise procedurally barred.

         The existence or absence of the June 11, 2003 trial transcript at this late date does not give rise to any actionable claim. Page's subject motion, his seventh Rule 61 motion, is procedurally barred and should be summarily dismissed.

         BACKGROUND, FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Page was convicted on June 17, 2003 of three counts of Murder in the First Degree, robbery, conspiracy and weapons charges. On February 24, 2006, Page was sentenced to life imprisonment, without the possibility of parole, for each of the three counts of Murder in the First Degree plus a term of years on the other convictions.

         Page's charges and resulting convictions stemmed from his actions on November 20, 1999. Page was a member of a large drug ring that sold crack cocaine and marijuana in Wilmington, Delaware. Cedric Reinford was the leader of the operation.[1] In early 1999, Page was arrested for trafficking in cocaine. Reinford provided Page money for his bail and counsel, and in return Page agreed to sell drugs for Reinford without taking any share of the profits.[2]

         After nine months of this arrangement, Page formulated a plan to end it by killing Reinford. Page enlisted another member of the drug ring, Michael Jones, to help him carry out his plan.[3]

         On November 20, 1999, Jones, Page and Reinford were together in Reinford's car in Wilmington. Jones killed Reinford by shooting him three times in the back of the head. Page and Jones then doused Reinford's car with gasoline and set it on fire with Reinford's body inside it.

         Page and Jones proceeded to Reinford's house to take Reinford's drug money from a safe. Page knew that Reinford did not live alone in the house. His fiance, Manekka Plant, and her two sons, ages 11 and 6 weeks old, also resided there. Also staying at the home at the time was Reinford's brother Muhammed.

         At the house, Jones and Page gained entry and searched for Reinford's drug money. They went upstairs to the bedroom where Manekka had been sleeping with her six-week-old baby.[4] They awoke Manekka demanding to know where Reinford hid his cash. Manekka began to panic, begging "don't kill my baby, please don't kill my baby." As Page searched the room for the drug money, Jones warned Manekka that her pleas were making him nervous. To show her that he meant business, Jones shot her in the foot.[5]

         After being shot in the foot, Manekka became more hysterical. Jones ruthlessly shot her twice in the head, thus ending her life.[6] He then turned the gun on Muhammed, shooting him between the eyes and leaving him for dead.

         Page and Jones fled to Philadelphia. Muhammad miraculously survived the shooting and called 911. He identified Page and Jones to the police.[7]

         The police investigation led to the questioning of Page's girlfriend, Kim Still, who explained Page's plan to kill Reinford. After a ten-month manhunt that included an "America's Most Wanted" episode, Page was tracked down in Atlanta, Georgia and arrested on November 3, 2000. He was indicted on January 29, 2001.[8]

         Page was tried before a Superior Court jury and convicted on June 17, 2003 of three counts of Murder in the First Degree, robbery, conspiracy and weapons charges. He was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for each of the three counts of Murder in the First degree plus a term of years.

         Following Page's convictions and sentences, Page filed a direct appeal. On October 10, 2007, the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed his convictions and sentences.[9]

         Thereafter, Page filed six Rule 61 motions, all of which have been unsuccessful[10].

         He has also filed two unsuccessful petitions for federal habeas corpus relief.[11]

         PAGE'S SUBJECT RULE 61 MOTION

         Page filed the subject Rule 61 motion, his seventh motion, on December 11, 2018. In the subject motion, Page claims that the trial transcript of June 11, 2003 is no longer available and, therefore, he is prevented from raising a prosecutorial misconduct claim arising from an allegedly improper remark made by the prosecutor during his closing.

         Before Page is entitled to proceed with the subject Rule 61 motion, he must first satisfy the pleading requirements. Page filed the subject Rule 61 motion in 2018, and it is the Rule 61 in effect at the time of the filing of this motion that is applicable.[12]

         The applicable Rule 61 mandates that Page's motion is to be summarily dismissed unless he establishes: 1) that new evidence exists that creates a strong inference that he is actually innocent of the charges for which he was convicted, or 2) the existence of a new rule of constitutional law made retroactive to cases on collateral review rendered his convictions invalid.[13] If it plainly appears from the motion for postconviction relief that the movant is not entitled to relief, the Court may enter an order for its summary dismissal and cause the movant to be notified.[14]

         Page's subject Rule 61 motion should be summarily dismissed. Page has not pled with particularity that any new evidence exists that creates a strong inference that he is actually innocent of the charges for which he was convicted or that there is a new rule of law that would render his conviction invalid.

         In order to establish that new evidence exists, Page must show: (1) that the evidence is such as will probably change the result if a new trial is granted; (2) that it has been discovered since the trial and could not have been discovered before by the exercise ...


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