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State v. Stephenson

Superior Court of Delaware

August 7, 2019

STATE OF DELAWARE, Plaintiff,
v.
JOSHUA STEPHENSON, Defendant.

         Supreme Court No. 88, 2019

          ORDER

          Honorable Mary M. Johnston J.

         By Order dated June 20, 2019, the Delaware Supreme Court remanded this case to Superior Court for an evidentiary hearing concerning Defendant's competency and his request to proceed pro se. As directed, this Court held an evidentiary hearing on July 29, 2019. The Court attempted to question the Defendant pursuant to the Watson v. State[1] factors, as enumerated in the Supreme Court's Order on remand. Following are the Court's findings as a result of those inquiries.

         Defendant has not retained private counsel to represent him on appeal.

         Defendant is incarcerated and is indigent. Defendant's educational background is "Like seventh, ninth, eight grade, somewhere."[2] Defendant is not personally familiar with the rules of procedure or evidence.[3]

         Defendant does not wish to proceed pro se. Throughout the evidentiary hearing, Defendant asserted his desire to be represented by a "Guardian at My Lighthouse."[4]" The Court asked Defendant's counsel if there were any other proceeding in which a guardian ad litem had been appointed. It appears that there is no guardian ad litem. Defendant was most insistent that the correct title is "Guardian at My Lighthouse."

         Defendant asserted that the Guardian at My Lighthouse should represent him at his new trial". Defendant stated that he had a right to appointment of a Guardian at My Lighthouse pursuant to the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution.[5] However, Defendant was unable to provide the name or credentials of such a person.[6] He requested that his new trial take place during the evidentiary hearing. The Court explained the purpose of the hearing, and that no trial was scheduled. The Court also explained that only an attorney can represent Defendant in legal proceedings.[7]

         Defendant further stated that he would need the assistance of the Guardian at My Lighthouse for purposes of appeal to the Supreme Court.[8]

         With regard to the issue of competency, the Court considered the report of Douglas S. Roberts, Psy, D., Licensed Psychologist with Delaware Health and Social Services. Dr. Roberts concluded:

Ultimately, in my opinion, given Mr. Stephenson's current psychiatric stability, there is not a sufficient psychiatric or cognitive basis to determine that he is not competent to proceed (through the Court may have concerns about his ability to proceed pro se due to his lack of knowledge and experience in the appeals process). As such, in my opinion, the available psychiatric evidence suggests that Mr. Stephenson is competent to proceed with post-trial proceedings.[9]

         This conclusion in Dr. Roberts' report regarding competency was not disputed.

         It appears to the Court that Defendant is legally competent for purposes of his appeal to the Delaware Supreme Court. The Court also finds that Defendant has neither the educational background nor familiarity with the rules of procedure, substantive law or rules of evidence to proceed without assistance of counsel. Further, because Defendant stated that he does not wish to proceed with the appeal pro se, appellate counsel should prosecute the appeal. Should an individual be identified by Defendant as his Guardian at My Lighthouse, appellate counsel may exercise discretion to consult with that person, in addition to consultation with Defendant.

         SO ORDERED.

         (Exhibits ...


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