Dover death row inmate Sykes sentence stayed in Supreme Court

Ambrose L. Sykes

Ambrose L. Sykes

DOVER — The case of a death row inmate convicted of a 2004 capital murder in Dover has been stayed until issues in other similar cases are resolved, a Superior Court judge determined on Wednesday in a six-page order.

Ambrose L. Sykes, 44, formerly of Hartly, can also amend a second motion he filed for post-conviction relief, which hinges on other case decisions tied to Delaware Supreme Court’s finding that the state’s current death penalty is unconstitutional.

On June 27, 2006, Sykes was found guilty of first-degree counts of murder and rape of a 68-year-old woman at her apartment in Dover. Other convicted charges included burglary and kidnapping.

Now, a determination in another capital conviction case – Powell v. State – may affect retroactive claims that Sykes could bring in an appeal, according to order.

Derrick Powell – on death row after the murder of a Georgetown police officer in 2009 – earlier filed a motion for post-conviction relief after the U.S. Supreme Court earlier ruled in the Hurst v. Florida case regarding the Sixth Amendment and a jury’s role in determining death sentence eligibility, not a judge.

On Aug. 2, 2016, Delaware Supreme Court ruled the state’s current death penalty structure was unconstitutional in the Rauf v. Delaware case involving a former Temple University law student charged with a murder in August 2015.

According to the order, Sykes believes he may be retroactively eligible for relief through decisions in the Hurst and Rauf matters, which could be confirmed by a decision in the Powell case.

Also, Sykes argued, a Superior Court judge issued a stay in a similar case, as did the Supreme Court in two others.

“Deciding the issue while [the Powell] appeals pending thus holds the potential to waste judicial resources and the time of the parties,” Resident Judge William L. Witham Jr. ruled.

“The Court finds it appropriate to follow the same logic that prompted the entry of stays in the other cases cited by the Defendant, and enter a stay until Powell can be decided.”

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