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State v. Rogers

Superior Court of Delaware

May 15, 2019

STATE OF DELAWARE
v.
DARON J. ROGERS (a.k.a. RODGERS), Defendant.

          Submitted: March 5, 2019

         Upon Defendant's Motion for Postconviction Relief SUMMARILY DISMISSED

         Upon Defendant's Request for Appointment of Postconviction Counsel DENIED

          ORDER

          ANDREA L. ROCANELLI JUDGE.

         Upon consideration of the Motion for Postconviction Relief ("PCR Motion") filed by Defendant DaRon J. Rogers (a.k.a. "Rodgers") ("Defendant"); Rule 61 of the Superior Court Criminal Rules of Procedure ("Rule 61"); the facts, arguments, and legal authorities set forth by Defendant; statutory and decisional law; and the entire record in this case, the Court hereby finds as follows:

         1. On August 29, 2017, Defendant was arrested. On November 13, 2017, a grand jury issued an indictment for Drug Dealing, Aggravated Possession, Endangering the Welfare of a Child, and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia.

         2. On October 11, 2018, Defendant pled guilty to Tier 4 Drug Dealing, a Class B Felony.[1]

         3. Upon motion by the State, the Court declared Defendant a habitual offender by Order dated February 8, 2019.

         4. By Order dated February 8, 2019, effective July 25, 2018, Defendant was sentenced as a habitual offender to 20 years at Level V with credit for 7 days previously served, suspended after 15 years for 5 years at supervision Level IV, suspended after 6 months for 18 months at supervision Level III ("February 8, 2019 Sentencing Order").

         5. On March 5, 2019, Defendant filed this first timely PCR Motion.[2]Defendant also requests this Court to appoint postconviction counsel.

         6. Defendant is challenging the February 8, 2019 Sentencing Order on the grounds that Defendant was denied the right to effective assistance of counsel in that he claims that his plea was not voluntary.

         7. Postconviction relief is a "collateral remedy which provides an avenue for upsetting judgments that have otherwise become final."[3]

         8. To protect the finality of criminal convictions, the Court must consider the procedural requirements for relief set out under Rule 61 (i) before addressing the merits of the motion.[4] Rule 6l(i)(1) bars a motion for postconviction relief that is filed more than one year from a final judgment of conviction.[5] This bar is inapplicable as Defendant's PCR Motion is timely. Rule 6l(i)(2) bars successive motions for postconviction relief.[6] This bar is inapplicable as this is Defendant's first postconviction motion. Rule 6l(i)(3) bars relief if the postconviction motion includes claims that were not asserted in prior proceedings leading to the final judgment, unless the movant shows cause for relief from the procedural bars and prejudice from a violation of the movant's rights.[7] Moreover, Rule 6l(i)(4) bars relief if the postconviction motion includes grounds for relief formerly adjudicated in any proceeding leading to the judgment of conviction, in an appeal, or in a postconviction proceeding.[8] Rule 6l(i)(3) and 6l(i)(4) are inapplicable because Defendant's claims for ineffective assistance of counsel could not have been raised in the proceedings leading to the judgment of conviction or on direct appeal.[9] The procedural requirements of Rule 61 (i) are satisfied. Accordingly, the Court will address Defendant's PCR Motion on the merits.

         9. The standard used to evaluate claims of ineffective counsel is the two-prong test articulated by the United States Supreme Court in Strickland v.. Washington, [10] as adopted in Delaware.[11] Under Strickland, Defendant must show that (1) counsel's representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness; and (2) there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different.[12] Failure to prove either prong will render the claim insufficient.[13] The Court shall dismiss entirely conclusory allegations of ineffective assistance.[14] The movant must provide concrete allegations of prejudice, including specifying the nature of the prejudice and the adverse effects actually suffered.[15]

         10. With respect to the first prong-the performance prong-the movant must overcome the strong presumption that counsel's conduct was professionally reasonable.[16] To satisfy the performance prong, Defendant must assert specific allegations establishing that counsel acted unreasonably as viewed against "prevailing professional norms."[17] With respect to the second prong-the prejudice prong-Defendant must show that "there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different."[18]

         11. Defendant contends that he received ineffective assistance of counsel in connection with Defendant's guilty plea. Specifically, Defendant asserts that his guilty plea was involuntary and that defense counsel failed to advise Defendant of the mandatory minimum and maximum penalties provided by law.

         12. Defendant also contends that defense counsel's advice to waive Defendant's preliminary hearing and failure to file a motion to suppress challenging the stop and seizure of Defendant constituted ineffective assistance of counsel.

         13. The sentence in this case was imposed pursuant to a Plea Agreement between the State and Defendant and signed by Defendant. Defendant also signed a Truth-in-Sentencing Guilty Plea Form. Pursuant to Rule 11(c)(1) of the Superior Court Criminal Rules, the Court addressed Defendant personally in open court prior to Defendant's sentencing. The Court determined that Defendant understood the nature of the charges to which the plea was offered, including the mandatory minimum and maximum penalties provided by law. Defendant confirmed that his plea was voluntary, and not the result of force, threats, or promises apart from the plea agreement. Defendant acknowledged to the Court that he ...


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