Derrick Powell, who was convicted and sentenced to death for fatally shooting Georgetown Patrolman Chad Spicer, will have two new attorneys to defend him during his appeal process.
Powell was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death by Superior Court Judge T. Henley Graves May 20, 2011. Delaware Supreme Court affirmed the death sentence for Powell Aug. 9.
In an Oct. 16 handwritten letter from Powell to Judge T. Henley Graves, Powell said he was notified by his trial attorneys, Dean Johnson and Stephanie Tsantes, that after Aug. 10, he would no longer be represented by the Public Defender’s Office.
Powell said he immediately asked his attorneys to file a writ of certiorari on his behalf.
According to Laws.com, a writ of certiorari requires a lower court to review a particular case, primarily where no appeal is available; the court is then required to issue a decision in the case as a means of preventing a backlog for the U.S. Supreme Court.
According to Powell’s letter, “The 17th of August 2012, Nicole Walker informed me that the Public Defender’s Office was ‘too busy’ to offer me any further assistance.” Walker, Bernard O’Donnell and Santino Ceccotti were Powell’s attorneys in his appeal to the Delaware Supreme Court.
Powell said he then filed a motion for post-conviction relief under Rule 61 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure for the Superior Court of Delaware – another form of appeal.
Powell said his appellate attorneys interfered with the motion. “It has since come to my attention that appellate counsel has requested that this court ignore my motion and request for counsel. Because the Public Defender no longer represents me, they have no authority to make any petition on my behalf,” Powell wrote.
“I ask that this court admonish the Public Defender against any further interference and appoint new counsel,” Powell wrote.
Just one day after receiving his letter, the Superior Court scheduled a status hearing with Powell, Johnson, Tsantes and trial prosecutors Paula Ryan and Martin Cosgrove.
At the Nov. 9 status hearing, Graves sided with Powell and appointed him two new attorneys for his Rule 61 proceedings.
Jason Miller, spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office said Rule 61 motions are common in the appeals process. “Rule 61 motions can challenge any number of issues related to a trial and conviction. Common issues raised in Rule 61 motions include allegations of ineffective counsel, certain exculpatory evidence not presented at trial, or certain evidence not provided to the defense through discovery,” Miller said in an email.
Miller said when the Public Defender can no longer represent an indigent defendant, a judge can appoint conflict counsel – an attorney who does not work in the Public Defender’s Office.