IN THE SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE
IN AND FOR NEW CASTLE COUNTY
STATE OF DELAWARE
a/k/a Charles Stoner,
I.D. No. 0111014286
December 5, 2002
January 10, 2003
UPO N DE FEN DAN T'S M OTIO N FO R PO STC ONV ICTIO N RE LIEF .
This 30th day of Ja nuary, 2003, upon consideration of the Defendant's Motion
for Postconviction Relief pursuant to Superior Court Criminal Rule 61 and the record in this
case, it appea rs that:
On February 21, 2002, Defendant, Ch arles Powell, a/k/a Charles Stoner,
pleaded guilty to Traffic king in Cocaine 50-100 g rams, Traf ficking in Cocaine 5-50 grams,
Conspiracy Second D egree, and Possession with Intent to Deliver a N arcotic Schedule II
Controlled Substa nce. O n the sa me da te, the Cou rt sentenced Defendant to a total of
nineteen years Level 5 incarceration, suspended after a total of ten years, for the balance of
the sentence on prob ation.
Eight years of Defen dant’s sentence consists of s tatutory
minim um m andato ry terms o f incarc eration.
Defendant has now filed the above-cap tioned M otion for Postconv iction
Relief. In support of his motion, Defendant lists as grounds for relief claims of ineffective
assistance of counsel, “tainted evidence,” and “deficient probable cause to execute and/or
issue search warrant.” This is Defendant’ s first motion for postconviction relief and the
Court has determined that none of the procedural bars listed in Rule 61 are applicable.
Therefore, the Court may consider the merits of Defendant’s motion.
In support of his first ground for relief claiming ineffective assistance
of counsel, Defendant alleges that his defense counsel failed investigate the State’s case
against him and that counsel failed to file a pre-trial motion for suppression of evidence.
Defendant argues that, had counsel adequately investigated the charges against him and
moved to suppress the drug evidence, counsel would not have advised Defendant to enter a
Gen erall y, by plead ing gui lty, a defendant waives his right to challenge
the sufficiency of the evidence a gainst him a nd, therefo re, Defen dant wo uld be dee med to
have waived his right to challenge the admissibility of evidence or sufficiency of a search
However, a defendant’s plea of guilty does not w aive his right to argue that h is
decision to enter into the plea was not knowing or voluntary because it was the result o f
ineffective assistance o f counse l.2 Specifically, in Bass, the defendant also alleged that his
defense counsel was ineffective because he failed to investigate the facts of the case and
failed to file a motion to suppress.3
Defendant alleges that his defense counsel was ineffective by failing to
investigate the State’s case against him, prejudicing his defense . Defend ant alleges tha t,
“[couns el] did little more than reviewing the record of facts produ ced by th e State.”
Specific ally, Defendant claims that h is trial counsel p rejudiced h is defense b y failing to file
a motion for suppression of evidence and alleges that, if counsel had done so, there was a
strong probability that “th is case wo uld have b een res olved.” Defendant claims that a motion
to suppress evidence was warranted because, “[a]s shown in the case history, numerous
packages of an off -white chunky substance was confiscated in the search of the
movant/defend ant’s place of residence . . . [h]owever, there was never any identification of
any such items being articulated to his ownership.” Defendant alleges that, had counsel filed
a motion to suppress the cocaine evidence, Defendant’s “decision at the advice of his counsel
to enter a plea of guilty would have reasonably rendered a different result.”
State v. Jones, 1990 WL 18267 (1990 Del. Supr.).
Bass v. Sta te, 2002 W L 317 96076 (Del. 20 02).
Id. at *1.
A criminal defendant who raises an allegation of ineffective assistance
of counsel must show that the attorney's conduct did not meet reasonable professional
standards so that such conduct w as prejudicia l to the defen dant. 4 A defendant must be able
to show that "[t]here is a re asonable p robability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors,
the result of the proceedings would have been different." 5 Upon re view of th e record in
Defendant’s case and the documents submitted by Defendant in support of his petition, the
Court cannot find that Defendant has satisfied either prong of Strickland.
The Court has review ed the transcript of the preliminary hearing in the
above-captioned criminal action held on December 18, 2001, specifically the testimony of
Senior Corporal Thomas Looney, who conducted the investigation of Defendant as part of
his duties w ith the W ilmingto n Polic e. Detective Loon ey’s testimony reveals that defense
counsel’s choice not to file a motion to suppress the drug evidence seized at D efendant’s
home was not unreasonable, and that had counsel filed such a motion, it would , in all
likeliho od, hav e been denied .
Detective Looney testified, in part, that he was contacted by a past
proven reliable inform ant who told him tha t Charles P owell had set up a “d rug org anizatio n.”
at his residence on West Fourth Street in Wilmington. Police set up two controlled b uys
where drugs were purchased from Defendant. Police also conducted extensive surveillance
Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (19 84).
Id. at 669.
of Defendant’s movements before arresting him. When Defendant was arrested after
participating in a third controlled buy, he was placed on the ground and put into handcuffs.
When police picked Defendant up off the ground, they discovered what was later determined
to be 55.3 grams of crack cocaine on the ground beneath him. After arresting Defendant,
police executed a search warrant of his residence, where they discovered 68.4 grams of crack
cocaine in the hallway, a digital scale in a jacket pocket, and approximately $1,400 in
currency in an upstairs bedroom.
The transcript reve als that Def endant’s atto rney conducted cross-
examination of Detective Looney regarding Defendant’s surveillance and arrest and the
search of his reside nce. Def ense cou nsel specific ally questioned Detective Looney regarding
the issues concerning possession of the drugs and paraphernalia raised by Defendant in this
petition. Given the responses to those qu estions, the C ourt finds th at defense counsel co uld
reasonab ly have formed the belief that a motion to suppress evidence would have failed. The
Court cannot find that counsel’s failure to file such a motion, on review of the record, did not
meet re asonab le profe ssional s tandard s of co nduct.
Nor can the Court find that Defendant has shown that the outcome of
his case would have been different even if defense counsel had filed, and succeeded, with
a motion to suppress the evidence found during the search of Defendant’s residence. As
summarized above, police had enough evidence obtained through surveillance of Defendant
and numerous controlled buys and from the cocaine found beneath Defendant when he was
arrested, to su pport the char ges to wh ich h e ple aded guilty.
Defendant’s second ground for relief also alleges ineffective assistance
of counsel d ue to his attorney’s failure to investigate the case against him and to file a motion
for suppression of tainted ev idence. In substance, D efendant’s second ground for relief is
identical to his first. Therefore, the Court finds that Defendant’s second ground for relief
also is without merit for the same reasons set forth above.
Defendant’s third ground for relief, “tainted evidence ,” and his fo urth
ground for relief, “deficient probable cause to execute and/or issu e search w arrant,” both
seek to ch allen ge th e suf ficie ncy of the evid ence agai nst h im directly, rather than claiming
that his plea was invo luntary due to in effective a ssistance of counsel. As set forth above, by
pleading guilty, Defendant gave up the right to challenge that evidence, including the
sufficiency of the s earch w arrant. Therefore, Defendant’s third and fourth grounds for relief
also are w ithout merit.
Therefore, because the Court finds that it is plain from the Motion for
Postconviction Relief and the record in this case that Defendant is not entitled to relief, the
motion is hereby SUMMARILY DISMISSED.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Carl Goldstein, Judge
Charles P owell