MICAH O. CUFFEE, Defendant Below, Appellant,
STATE OF DELAWARE, Plaintiff Below, Appellee.
Submitted: March 15, 2019
Below: Superior Court of the State of Delaware Cr. ID No.
VALIHURA, SEITZ, and TRAYNOR, Justices.
COLLINS J. SEITZ, JR. JUSTICE
consideration of the briefs of the parties and the record in
this case, it appears to the Court that:
defendant below-appellant, Micah O. Cuffee, has appealed the
Superior Court's denial of his first motion for
postconviction relief under Superior Court Criminal Rule 61.
After careful consideration of the parties' briefs and
the record, we affirm the Superior Court's judgment.
August 7, 2013, a Superior Court jury found Cuffee guilty of
Attempted Theft, Conspiracy in the Second Degree, and
Criminal Mischief. After granting the State's petition to
declare Cuffee a habitual offender, the Superior Court
sentenced Cuffee to eight years of Level V incarceration for
Attempted Theft, two years of Level V incarceration,
suspended for one year of Level III probation, for Conspiracy
in the Second Degree, and a fine of $250 for Criminal
This Court affirmed Cuffee's convictions on direct
appeal. The Court described the events leading to
Cuffee's convictions as follows:
On the night of September 19, 2012, a resident of a
development located near Walker Road in Dover heard a
vehicle, a screeching, metallic noise like something was
being dragged, and voices outside the back of her townhouse.
Office buildings, which were closed for the day, were located
behind the caller's townhouse. The resident called 911 to
report the noises at approximately 10:30 p.m. Corporal
Gregory Hopkins and other members of the Dover police
responded to the 911 call.
Initially, Hopkins and the other police officers checked
businesses and communities along Walker Road for the source
of the reported noises. Hopkins checked 1155 Walker Road and
did not see anything there. Hopkins then went to the 911
caller's townhouse and spoke to her about what she had
heard in order to pinpoint the location of the noises. Based
on that conversation, Hopkins drove back to 1155 Walker Road,
which was located behind the townhouse.
Hopkins walked around the building located at 1155 Walker
Road and saw four, disconnected air conditioning units behind
the building and near a shed. The air conditioners had been
cut from the building located at 1155 Walker Road. Hopkins
reported his findings and it was decided that he would stay
in the area to conduct surveillance in case someone returned
to pick up the disconnected air conditioners. Other officers
set up a perimeter near Walker Road.
Shortly after Hopkins concealed himself under some trees to
monitor the area where the air conditioners were located, he
observed a maroon minivan, with no headlights on, driving in
from Walker Road. After driving into the parking lot that was
closest to the disconnected air conditioners, the minivan
began backing up over a bed of rocks near the air
conditioners and became stuck.
Hopkins watched the minivan occupants attempt to remove the
minivan from the rocks. They were unsuccessful and called
somebody for assistance. Although Hopkins could see the
occupants of the minivan walk around it, he could not see
them at all times. Hopkins observed a white pick-up truck
drive in from Walker Road and tow the minivan off of the
rocks. Cuffee's cousin, Walter Cuffee, testified that
Cuffee called him the night of September 19, 2012 for
assistance. Walter Cuffee drove his white pick-up truck to
Walker Road, where he testified that he picked up Cuffee and
Mark McDonald, and then helped Cuffee and McDonald tow the
minivan from the rocks. After Hopkins watched the white
pickup truck and maroon minivan leave the parking lot, he saw
that the disconnected air conditioners were no longer where
he had previously seen them. Hopkins radioed police units on
Walker Road to report that the air conditioners had been
taken and that both the white pick-up truck and maroon
minivan should be stopped. Hopkins then walked around the
area and saw that the air conditioners had been moved to the
other side of the shed.
Police stopped the white pick-up truck and maroon minivan.
Cuffee was driving the minivan and McDonald was the
passenger. Both men were arrested. In a search of the
minivan, the police found a pair of bolt cutters, Channellock
pliers, a flashlight, and two pairs of work gloves. All of
the seats, except for the driver seat and front passenger
seat, had been removed from the minivan. Cuffee's
daughter testified that she owned the minivan and that the
equipment in the minivan belonged to her
August 11, 2015, Cuffee filed a timely motion for
postconviction relief. The motion was assigned to a Superior
Court Commissioner. On October 28, 2015, Cuffee filed a
motion to compel in which he sought to listen again to a CD
of the 911 calls and police officers' radio
communications from the night of his arrest. The State
opposed the motion, arguing that Cuffee had already listened
to the recordings during his direct appeal and had not
established a basis to listen to the recordings again. The
Commissioner denied Cuffee's motion.
After Cuffee supplemented and amended his motion for
postconviction relief, his former counsel filed affidavits in
response, and the State responded to the motion, the
Commissioner issued a report and recommendation on August 7,
2017. The Commissioner found that Cuffee failed to overcome
the Rule 61 procedural bars and recommended denial of his
motion for postconviction relief. Cuffee objected to the
Commissioner's report and recommendation. On November 13,
2017, after de novo review of the record, the