Drug dealing conviction upheld

 

DOVER — Delaware Supreme Court last week denied a man’s claim that he is being held illegally after a May 2015 drug dealing plea.

Jaron R. Bennefield argued he was innocent of drug dealing and thus imprisoned illegally due to habeus corpus protection, according to documents.

Papers said Bennefield pleaded guilty to drug dealing in an agreement with the State on May 26 in Kent County Superior Court. Three counts of possession of a deadly weapon during the commission of a felony were dropped, along with single charges of endangering the welfare of a child and possession of drug paraphernalia.

In its order, the Supreme Court noted that Superior Court advised Bennefield that a writ of habeus corpus “is not the correct means to petition the Court for postconviction remedy.”

The state agreed not to seek more than three years of incarceration in the plea deal, according to papers.

Following a pre-sentence investigation, Bennefield on July 14 was sentenced to eight years Level V incarceration suspended after two years for one year at Level III probation, according to the Court.

“Bennefield did not file a direct appeal from the guilty plea conviction or the sentence,” the Supreme Court wrote.

According to papers, Superior Court denied a petition for release based on habeus corpus on Aug. 13. An appeal was submitted to Supreme Court on Oct. 21.

The Supreme Court found that Superior Court had jurisdiction over the indictment charges, the authority to accept a guilty plea and impose a sentence after conviction.

“The Court notes, as did the Superior Court, that Bennefield’s claims of actual innocence and insufficient evidence, and any other claims seeking to set aside the final judgment of conviction, must be brought in a postconviction proceeding under Superior Court Criminal Rule 61,” the Court wrote.

“Claims for posconviction relief are not cognizable in a petition for a writ of habeus corpus.”

Criminal Rule 61 “governs the procedure on an application by a person in custody under a sentence of this court seeking to set aside the judgment of conviction,” according to papers.

Justices Randy Holland, Karen Valihura and James T. Vaughn Jr. issued the order.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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