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State v. Jones

Superior Court of Delaware

December 11, 2019

STATE OF DELAWARE,
v.
QUENTIN JONES, Petitioner/Defendant.

          Submitted: November 8, 2019

          Upon Defendant's Motion for Postconviction Relief GRANTED

          Natalie S. Woloshin, Esquire, Woloshin, Lynch & Associates, P.A., 3200 Concord Pike, Wilmington, DE 19803; Attorney for Defendant.

          Kathryn J. Garrison, Esquire, Department of Justice, 114 East Market Street, Georgetown, DE 19947; Attorney for the State

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          CRAIG A KARSNITZ, J.

"...we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."
John F. Kennedy

         President Kennedy wrote what I have quoted for a speech to be given at Thanksgiving in 1963. He never delivered the speech. In my far less articulate words, one should judge people for what they do and not what they say.

         This is a Superior Court Criminal Rule 61 ("Rule 61") application for postconviction relief. The petitioner, Quentin Jones, ("Q. Jones")[1] was convicted of serious crimes, including two counts of rape in the first degree involving a child less than 12 years old. Trial was held in February, 2016 and Dwayne Jones ("D, Jones"), a prison informant, was an important witness presented by the State of Delaware ("the State"). Q. Jones was sentenced to life in prison in April of 2016.

         At the time of Q. Jones' trial, D. Jones was in prison serving a three year sentence pursuant to 11 Del. C. §4204K ("K time") after pleading guilty in the summer of 2015 to three charges, which included two Class A misdemeanors and one Class F felony. D. Jones apparently was surprised by the amount of Level 5 time to which he was sentenced, as well as the "K time" requirement. Shortly after being sentenced, D. Jones began a persistent campaign to have his Level 5 time reduced. His efforts proved fruitless until he decided to provide testimony which helped convict Q. Jones. Within six months of Q. Jones' sentencing, D. Jones had his sentence substantially modified in his favor.

         At Q. Jones' trial, D. Jones was questioned if he had an agreement with the State to receive any benefit for his testimony. He denied any agreement.

         The parties have conceded that, if D. Jones had an agreement with the State, it would constitute Brady material and would have to be disclosed to Q. Jones and his defense team. The obvious reason is that an agreement between the State and D. Jones in exchange for his testimony would be grounds to impeach D. Jones. To put it simply, the defense for Q. Jones could assert that D. Jones' testimony was the result of the promises made to him, and not the truth.

         Rule 61 proceedings always are serious and important. They are defendant's last chance. The road to success in a Rule 61 proceeding is difficult, as it should be. Jury verdicts are sacrosanct and are disturbed only for the most substantial and serious reason. But where the trial lacks fundamental fairness, and where the basic rights and rules are not followed, a jury verdict cannot stand. In my opinion, this is one of those cases.

         As much as the State argues otherwise, I find that the State had an understanding with D. Jones that it would give its approval to D. Jones' effort to reduce his sentence in exchange for his testimony. Under the most basic requirements of Brady, that had to be disclosed to Q. Jones' defense team. Because it was not disclosed, Q. Jones' trial was fundamentally unfair, and I am granting his motion.

         My action here is with reluctance, and I recognize the consequences to all, including the witness, and especially, the victim. Our process must be fair and meet established standards, which cannot be compromised to allow the State the benefit of an unsullied witness, while at the same time giving D. Jones the benefit of an unstated or implied bargain.

         O. JONES' INITIAL RULE 61 PETITION

         The State concedes that Q. Jones' petition was timely filed under Rule 61. Q. Jones, representing himself, filed the initial Rule 61 petition. Q. Jones raised six grounds in support of his claim for Rule 61 relief, which alleged deficiencies in trial counsel's performance. I give little attention to each of those grounds as none meet the Strickland[2]standard. Strickland, and its Delaware counterpart, Albury v. State[3]require counsel's performance to fall below an objective standard of reasonableness, and the moving party also must show there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different. I have examined the record and the arguments of Q. Jones and counsel and find that neither prong of Strickland has been met. I reject all of the claims contained in the initial, pro se petition related to counsel's performance.

         Additionally, Q. Jones made four claims related to the State's conduct in his trial. In his pro se Motion for Postconviction Relief, Jones claims: (1) the prosecution violated his Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights and 11 Del. C. §3507 by asking the victim leading questions without laying the proper foundation; (2) the trial judge erred in failing to voir dire juror 12, who had taken part in a Zumba class with the State's liaison; (3) he was prejudiced by Detective Jeremy Jones' testimony that he investigates crimes and "rapes such as this;" and (4) the trial judge failed to instruct the jury that informants are not presumed to be credible witnesses.

         The State raises the procedural bars provided in Rule 6l(1)(3) and (4) in response to these claims. All of the claims raised in this portion of Q. Jones' petition were claims either raised at trial and rejected, or waived. I agree with the State's position that the four claims listed are barred by Rule 6l(i)(3) and 6l(i)(4).

         THE AMENDED RULE 61 PETITION

         After Q. Jones filed his petition, counsel was appointed to review and supplement it. Counsel filed an Amended Motion for Postconviction Relief which raised one issue. In the amended motion, Q. Jones asserted his constitutional rights were violated because the State committed a Brady[4] violation by failing to disclose what he called a "tacit agreement" between the State and D. Jones in exchange for his testimony.

         The State also raises the provisions of Rule 6l(i)(3) as a bar to this claim. Rule 6l(i)(3) reads in full:

(3) Procedural default. Any ground for relief that was not asserted in the proceedings leading to the judgment of conviction, as required by the rules of this Court, is ...

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