JAMES W. RILEY, Defendant Below, Appellant,
STATE OF DELAWARE, Plaintiff Below, Appellee.
Submitted: July 5, 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 appellant's opening brief, the
appellee's motion to affirm, and the record below, it
appears to the Court that:
appellant, James W. Riley, filed this appeal from the
Superior Court's 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 Riley's opening brief that his appeal is
without merit. We agree and affirm.
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
Riley's 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 Court's denial of Riley's first and second
motions for postconviction relief.
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.
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 authorize.
Superior Court did not err in denying Riley's 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 Riley's 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
Riley's claim that the trial judge did not fulfill his
obligation to inquire fully into the reasons for Riley's
disagreement with his counsel. As to Riley's 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 of the Superior Court is AFFIRMED.
Riley v. State, 496 A.2d 997