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State v. O'Neal

Superior Court of Delaware

August 29, 2019

STATE OF DELAWARE
v.
WAYNE S. O'NEAL Petitioner/Defendant.

          Submitted: August 12, 2019

         Upon Petitioner's Motion for Postconviction Relief (R-2) DENIED

          Wayne S. O'Neal.

          Derek Gay, Deputy Attorney General, Department of Justice; Attorney for State of Delaware.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          KARSNITZ, J.

         MOTION FOR POSTCONVICTION RELIEF

         I. HISTORY OF CASE

         On June 5, 2018, Petitioner and defendant Wayne S. O'Neal ("Petitioner," "Defendant" or "O'Neal") was charged with DUI - 6th Offense; Driving While Suspended/Revoked; Failure to Have Insurance; Failure to Have a Registration Card; and, Failure to Transfer Title.[1] Petitioner waived preliminary hearing and was charged via Information with these offenses on July 12, 2018.[2] At the time of his arrest, Petitioner was on probation for a DUI - 4th Offense and a Violation of Probation was filed. This Court placed Petitioner on the fast track calendar. On August 7, 2018, the DUI - 6th Offense charge was reduced to DUI - 5th Offense.[3]On August 21, 2018, Petitioner, represented by Daniel A. Strumpf, Esquire ("Trial Counsel"), entered a guilty plea to DUI - 5th Offense (with an agreed upon sentence recommendation) and Driving While Suspended/Revoked; a nolle prosequi was entered on the remaining charges.[4]

         On October 1, 2018, Petitioner filed a timely pro se First Motion for Postconviction Relief (the "First Rule 61 Motion") under Superior Court Rule of Criminal Procedure 61 ("Rule 61"), alleging multiple claims of violations of the Fourth and Eighth Amendments to the United States Constitution and ineffective assistance of counsel.[5] On October 15, 2018, this Court informed Petitioner that it had no jurisdiction over the First Rule 61 Motion because a direct appeal was pending before the Delaware Supreme Court, and informed Petitioner that he could resubmit the Motion after the Delaware Supreme Court decision was rendered.[6]

         On December 6, 2018, the Delaware Supreme Court dismissed Defendant's appeal on jurisdictional grounds as untimely filed.[7] On January 14, 2019, Petitioner filed a timely pro se Second Motion for Postconviction Relief (the "Second Rule 61 Motion").[8] On April 18, 2019, Petitioner filed a Motion to Compel delivery of the entire case file.[9] On June 11, 2019, Trial Counsel filed his Rule 61(g) Affidavit as a part of his Response to Petitioner's Motion for Postconviction Relief.[10] On June 26, 2019, the State filed its Response in Opposition to the Motion for Postconviction Relief.[11] On July 1, 2019, I informed counsel that I had all necessary filings with respect to the motion for postconviction relief and directed Trial Counsel to respond to the Motion to Compel by July 31, 2019.[12] On July 29, 2019, Trial Counsel had no objection to the Motion to Compel and delivered the entire case file to Petitioner.[13] At various stages of the proceedings, Petitioner filed various Addenda to his motion for postconviction relief, most recently on August 12, 2019.[14]

         II. PROCEDURAL BARS UNDER RULE 61 (i).

         I first address the procedural bars of Superior Court Criminal Rule 61(i).[15] If a procedural bar exists, as a general rule I will not address the merits of the postconviction claim.[16] Under the Delaware Superior Court Rules of Criminal Procedure, a motion for post-conviction relief can be barred for (1) time limitations, (2) successive motions, (3) procedural default, or (4) former adjudication.[17]

         A motion for postconviction relief exceeds time limitations if it is filed more than one year after the conviction becomes final, or, if it asserts a retroactively applicable right that is newly recognized after the judgment of conviction is final, more than one year after the right was first recognized by the Supreme Court of Delaware or the United States Supreme Court.[18] In this case, Petitioner's conviction became final for purposes of Rule 61 at the conclusion of direct review when the Delaware Supreme Court issued its Order on December 7, 2018.[19] Petitioner filed his Second Rule 61 Motion on January 17, 2019. Therefore, consideration of the Second Rule 61 Motion is not barred by the one-year limitation of Rule 61(i)(1).

         Nor is this a "second or subsequent motion" under Rule 61(i)(2). Although styled a "Second Motion for Postconviction Relief," this is only because the "First Motion for Postconviction Relief was stayed during the pendency of the direct appeal to the Delaware Supreme Court. Thus, I treat the First Rule 61 Motion and the Second Rule 61 Motion collectively as a single "Motion for Postconviction Relief (the "Rule 61 Motion").

         Grounds for relief "not asserted in the proceedings leading to the judgment of conviction" are barred as procedurally defaulted unless the movant can show "cause for relief and "prejudice from [the] violation."[20] See my discussion of Petitioner's guilty plea, below.

         Grounds for relief formerly adjudicated in the case, including "proceedings leading to the judgment of conviction" are barred.[21] See my discussion of Petitioner's guilty plea, below.

         The procedural bars to relief do not apply either to a claim that the Court lacked jurisdiction or to a claim that pleads with particularity that new evidence exists that creates a strong inference of actual innocence, [22] or that a new retroactively applied rule of constitutional law renders the conviction invalid.[23] None of these claims applies in this case.

         Petitioner's Motion is based in part on claims of ineffective assistance of counsel ("IAC"), which can only be raised in a motion for postconviction relief.[24] The I AC issues presented in the Motion were not formerly adjudicated because ineffective assistance of counsel claims are not addressed by the Delaware Supreme Court on direct appeal.[25] Therefore, the IAC claims made in Petitioner's Motion are not procedurally barred.

         III. LEGAL ANALYSIS

         Rule 61 provides in pertinent part:

"If it plainly appears from the motion for postconviction relief and the record of the prior proceedings in the case that the movant is not entitled to relief, the judge may enter an order for its summary dismissal and cause the movant to be notified."[26]

         In my view, it plainly appears from both the Rule 61 Motion itself, from the record of the proceedings in this case, and from applicable law, that Petitioner is not entitled to relief.

         Petitioner's grounds for relief are allegations that: (1) Trial Counsel did not file a motion to suppress under the Fourth Amendment prior to entering his guilty plea; (2) Trial Counsel was generally ineffective as his counsel; (3) the fine he agreed to pay is excessive under the Eighth Amendment; and, (4) the sentence he agreed to is excessive under the Eighth Amendment. These claims are assessed under the two-part standard established in Strickland v. Washington,[27] as applied in Delaware.[28]Under Strickland and Albury, Defendant must show that (1) Trial Counsel's representation "fell below an objective standard of reasonableness" (the "performance part"); and, (2) the "deficient performance prejudiced [his] defense." (the "prejudice part").[29] In considering the performance part, the Court was mindful that "[S]trategic choices made after thorough investigation of law and facts relevant to plausible options are virtually unchallengeable."[30]Strickland requires an objective analysis, making every effort "to eliminate the distorting effects of hindsight" and to "indulge a strong presumption that counsel's conduct falls within the wide range of ...


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