Delaware v. WrightAnnotate this Case
In 1992 Jermaine Wright was convicted of first degree murder, first degree robbery, and related weapons offenses for his involvement in what was known as the "Hi-Way Inn murder/robbery." The Superior Court imposed the death penalty for his murder conviction. Prior to trial, Wright moved to suppress a statement he had given to police. He alleged that his waiver of Miranda rights was invalid and his statement was involuntary because he was high on heroin at the time. The Superior Court denied the motion, finding that Wright had been given the Miranda rights three times, by three different police officers, and that the State had “met its burden of proof by a preponderance of the evidence that the Defendant’s waiver of his Miranda rights was voluntary, knowing and intelligent, and that his confession was voluntarily made.” Wright then filed a second pretrial motion to suppress his confession on other grounds. In its opinion denying that motion, the Superior Court again found that Wright had been given his Miranda rights three times. The confession was admitted into evidence at trial. On direct appeal, Wright’s convictions and sentences were affirmed. Between then and 2009, Wright filed four motions for post conviction relief. In the second postconviction proceeding, the Superior Court again rejected Wright’s contention that his waiver of Miranda rights was not valid. In 2014, in the fourth postconviction proceeding, the Delaware Supreme Court reversed Wright’s convictions on the ground that the State violated his rights under "Brady v. Maryland." The case was remanded to the Superior Court for a new trial. By the time the fourth motion for postconviction relief was filed, the original trial judge had retired and the case had been assigned to her successor. In the new trial proceedings, the successor judge granted a motion to suppress Wright’s confession on the ground that the Miranda rights he was given were inadequate, and that his waiver was, therefore, not valid. The last ruling was presented for the Delaware Supreme Court's review. The Court concluded that the original Superior Court judge’s determination that Wright’s waiver of his Miranda rights was voluntary, knowing, and intelligent necessarily included an implied determination that the warnings were adequately given. Those determinations are the law of the case. For this reason, the successor judge erred in reviewing the admissibility of Wright’s confession. The State also appeals the successor judge’s denial of a motion that he recuse himself. At oral argument, the State conceded that the Supreme Court did not have jurisdiction under 10 Del. C. 9902 to review that order. Therefore, the Court did not address the Superior Court’s ruling on recusal or express any opinion on recusal.