James W. RILEY, Defendant Below, Appellant,
STATE of Delaware, Plaintiff Below, Appellee.
July 5, 2019
decision has been designated as "Table of Decisions
Without Published Opinions." in the Atlantic Reporter.
Below— Superior Court of the State of Delaware, Cr. ID
No. 00004014504 (K)
VALIHURA, SEITZ, and TRAYNOR, Justices.
J. Seitz, Jr., Justice.
consideration of the appellants opening brief, the
appellees motion to affirm, and the record below, it appears
to the Court that:
(1) The appellant, James W. Riley, filed this appeal from
the Superior Courts denial of his motion to correct an
illegal sentence. The State of Delaware has filed a motion
to affirm the judgment below on the ground that it is
manifest on the face of Rileys opening brief that his
appeal is without merit. We agree and affirm.
(2) In 1982, Riley was convicted of multiple crimes,
including first degree murder, and was sentenced to death.
This Court affirmed the convictions and
sentence. In 2001, the United States Court of
Appeals for the Third Circuit reversed Rileys convictions
and ordered a new trial. On retrial, a Superior Court jury
found Riley guilty of first degree murder, first degree
robbery, and possession of a deadly weapon during the
commission of a felony. The Superior Court sentenced Riley
to life imprisonment plus another twenty-five years of
incarceration. On appeal, this Court
affirmed. This Court also affirmed the
Superior Courts denial of Rileys first and second motions
for postconviction relief.
(3) In March 2019, Riley filed a motion to correct an
illegal sentence. He argued that the Hurst v.
Florida  and Rauf v. State
 decisions extended to the pretrial
and trial stages, many judges misused their impermissible
final sentencing authority to impose the death penalty
throughout pretrial and trial proceedings, a
life-without-parole sentence cannot be severed from the
capital sentencing provisions in 11 Del. C. § 4209, and he
should be resentenced for second degree murder. The
Superior Court denied the motion, finding the sentence was
appropriate for all of the reasons stated at sentencing.
This appeal followed.
(4) We review the denial of a motion for correction of
sentence for abuse of discretion. To the extent a claim
involves a question of law, we review the claim de
novo.  A sentence is illegal if it exceeds
statutory limits, violates double jeopardy, is ambiguous
with respect to the time and manner in which it is to be
served, is internally contradictory, omits a term required
to be imposed by statute, is uncertain as to its substance,
or is a sentence that the judgment of conviction did not
(5) The Superior Court did not err in denying Rileys
motion to correct an illegal sentence. After his retrial in
2003, Riley was sentenced to life imprisonment, not the
death penalty. The Hurst and Rauf
holdings on the constitutionality of death penalty statutes
have no bearing on Rileys life sentence. Riley contends
that trial judges misused their authority to impose the
death penalty in pretrial and trial proceedings, but fails
to show that any such misuse occurred here. This Court
previously rejected Rileys claim that the trial judge did
not fulfill his obligation to inquire fully into the
reasons for Rileys disagreement with his
counsel. As to Rileys severability
argument, this Court held in Powell v. State
 and Zebroski v. State
 that the life-without-parole
alternative in § 4209 is severable from the rest of the
death penalty statute. Riley has not shown a basis to
overturn either of those decisions.
THEREFORE, IT IS ORDERED that the Motion to Affirm is GRANTED
and the judgment ...