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State v. Dryburgh

Superior Court of Delaware

April 30, 2019

STATE OF DELAWARE, Plaintiff,
v.
JONATHON DRYBURGH, Defendant.

          Submitted: February 7, 2019

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

          Jonathon Dryburgh, pro se.

          COMMISSIONER'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION THAT DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR POSTCONVICTION RELIEF SHOULD BE DENIED

          KATHARINE L. MAYER COMMISSIONERS.

         This 30th day of April, 2019, upon consideration of Defendant's Motion for Postconviction Relief, it appears to the Court that:

         BACKGROUND AND HISTORY OF RELEVANT EVENTS

         Jonathon Dryburgh ("Defendant") was charged with Robbery First Degree, Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony (two counts), Attempted Murder First Degree, Carrying a Concealed Deadly Weapon, Resisting Arrest, and Possession of a Firearm by a Person Prohibited. The charges stem from a series of events that occurred on July 27, 2017 while Defendant was visiting Delaware with friends.[1] Defendant stole a purse and then fled with what was believed to be a firearm. Law enforcement caught up with Defendant shortly thereafter and while attempting to evade arrest, Defendant fired shots at the officers. After a brief foot pursuit, Defendant was taken into custody. Defendant agreed to speak with the officers and provided a full confession. Defendant claimed he was high on cocaine and did not realize he was shooting at police officers.

         On March 15, 2018, Defendant entered into a Plea Agreement and agreed to plead guilty to Robbery Second Degree, Attempted Murder First Degree, Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony, Resisting Arrest, and Possession of a Firearm by a Person Prohibited. Defendant understood that by entering into the Plea Agreement he could be sentenced to the minimum mandatory Level V time of 23 years (or more) and that the State would recommend 26 years at Level V.[2] At that time, Defendant also executed a Truth-in-Sentencing Guilty Plea Form that advised him of the rights he was waiving by entering a guilty plea, and that the maximum penalty could be life imprisonment. When executing the form, Defendant admitted he had been a patient in a mental hospital in 2011, but that he was not under the influence of any drugs and that he was freely and voluntarily deciding to plead guilty.

         On that same date, the Court engaged in a detailed plea colloquy with Defendant.[3] Again, the Court was advised that Defendant had been a patient in a mental hospital in 2011, but that counsel "believe[s] that he knows what's going on and has understood everything that we've talked about."[4] When addressed by the Court, Defendant denied that he had recently taken any drugs or consumed any alcohol, he openly discussed the conditions involving his previous hospital stay, and educated the Court about the processes in Florida.[5] Defendant clarified that he was taking Zyprexa, Prazosin and Zoloft, as prescribed, and that when taking those medications, he is able to understand the consequences of his actions and make reasonable decisions.[6] Defendant also confirmed that he had not been diagnosed with any physical or mental condition that would affect his ability to understand the proceedings.[7] The Court then continued with the plea colloquy and Defendant voluntarily waived his constitutional rights, admitted guilt to the charges as set forth in the Plea Agreement, and indicated he was satisfied with his counsel's representation. On July 13, 2018, Defendant was sentenced to 31 years at Level V followed by decreasing levels of probation.[8]

         On December 26, 2018, Defendant filed his first Motion for Postconviction Relief (the "Motion").[9] The Motion presents two arguments: (1) Defendant's procedural due process rights as enunciated in Pate v. Robinson, 383 U.S. 375 (1966), were violated when the trial court failed to hold a competency hearing before accepting the guilty plea; and (2) trial counsel's failure to advise defendant of an insanity defense rendered defendant's guilty plea involuntary and constituted ineffective assistance of counsel (citing Mendenhall v. Hopper, 453 F.Supp. 977 (S.D. Ga. 1978)).

         At the Court's direction, former trial counsel submitted an Affidavit responding to the two allegations. Trial counsel attests that throughout his representation, and during the time that the plea was entered, Defendant did not display any characteristics of incompetency.[10] Further, trial counsel did not advise Defendant regarding the possibility of an "insanity" defense because "there were no objective signs that ever made [trial counsel] question whether he appreciated the nature of his actions on July 27, 2017."

         LEGAL ANALYSIS OF CLAIMS

         Before considering the merits of the claims, the Court must first determine whether there are any procedural bars to the Motion.[11] This is Defendant's first motion for post-conviction relief and it was timely filed.[12] However, pursuant to Super. Ct. Crim. R. 6l(i)(3) any ground for relief that was not previously raised is deemed waived, unless the movant can establish cause for relief and prejudice to the movant's rights.

         Ineffective assistance of counsel claims cannot be raised at any earlier stage in the proceedings and are properly presented by way of a motion for postconviction relief.[13] In order to prevail on an ineffective assistance of counsel claim, a defendant must show that his counsel's representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness and the deficiencies in counsel's representation caused the defendant actual prejudice.[14] To prevail in the context of a case involving a guilty plea, Defendant must show that but for counsel's errors, there is a reasonable probability that he would not have pleaded guilty and instead would have insisted on going to trial.[15] Defendant must also overcome a strong presumption that counsel's conduct was reasonably professional under the circumstances.[16] Further, mere allegations of ineffectiveness will not suffice, rather, a defendant must make and substantiate concrete allegations of actual prejudice.[17] Great weight and deference are given to tactical decisions by the trial attorney and counsel cannot be deemed ineffective for failing to pursue motions that lack merit.[18] Moreover, a defendant is bound by his statements to the Court during the plea colloquy and a valid guilty plea waives his right to challenge any alleged errors, deficiencies or defects occurring prior to the entry of the plea.[19]

         I. Defendant's First Claim Should be Denied

         Unfortunately, many involved in the criminal justice system suffer from a mental health condition. However, the existence of such an illness does not, in and of itself, render a guilty plea involuntary nor is it a threshold that automatically compels a competency hearing. Rather, a competency determination is necessary only if the court has reason to doubt the defendant's competence.[20] In the context of a guilty plea, "a defendant's competence is predicated on whether he 'has sufficient present ability to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding-and whether he has a rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against him."'[21] Where there is no evidence that a defendant has ...


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