Court upholds habitual offender ruling for Millsboro man

DOVER — A Millsboro man’s appeal to vacate a conviction after a May 2013 shooting was denied by the Delaware Supreme Court late last month.

Derrick Sewell, sentenced to 81 years in prison, contested his habitual offender status, and contended the state did not disclose required evidence at trial. The Supreme Court said it found no merit in the claims, releasing its decision on Nov. 25.

18dsn Derrick Sewell by .

Derrick
Sewell

Sewell, 23 at the time, was arrested after a West Rehoboth shooting incident at a birthday party on May 10, 2013. He was convicted in April 2014 after making several motions, all denied, for a mistrial based on the state’s alleged untimely disclosure of certain information, according to court papers.

In Sussex County Superior Court, Sewell was found guilty of first-degree assault, possession of a deadly weapon during the commission of a felony, possession of a firearm by person prohibited, aggravated menacing, second-degree conspiracy, offensive touching, receiving a stolen firearm,and possession of firearm during a commission of a felony, papers saod.

Regarding his habitual offender status, Sewell contended the statute did not apply to felony traffic offenses, and he was prejudiced by the state’s failure to file a motion to declare him a habitual offender before the final case review, according the court’s ruling.

Citing case law, the Supreme Court wrote, “The trial court acted properly when it found Sewell was a habitual offender …”

Also, the court said, Sewell complained during trial regarding the state’s disclosure of two additional pages of federal reports, detective notes, state forensic report documents, and a police report from an officer who initiated a traffic stop that brought his arrest.

“Sewell’s second claim is misplaced,” according to the Supreme Court in its opinion.

“ … The State only has the obligation to turn evidence over that is in its control. Here, the State produced additional pages of the Federal Reports, once those pages were under its control.

“Further, the State has no obligation to disclose its witness. As to (a detective’s) notes, the State provided those notes before Sewell cross-examined the witness as required. Further, the notes were immaterial as Sewell already had the information which the notes contained … The court found the state’s failure to produce two photos connected to the state’s firearms expert’s report, since it was conceded that there was no longer a need for the witness.

The court also ruled Sewell was not prejudiced by a possible inference that he intended to run from police, since substantial evidence was presented by the state to the jury.

Citing case law, the court ruled that “at any time after conviction and before” sentencing the state may request that the defendant be declared a habitual offender.”

“Sewell cannot establish that he was prejudiced in any way because the State followed proper procedures,” the court wrote.

“Thus, Sewell’s last claim has no merit.”

The matter was considered by Justices Karen Valihura, Collins Seitz Jr. and James Vaughn Jr.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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