Appellate Review of Sentences Is Extremely Limited In Delaware

It is well established in Delaware law that appellate review of sentences is extremely limited, and generally ends upon determination that the sentence is within the statutory limits prescribed by the legislature. Mayes v. State, Del. Supr., 604 A.2d 839, 843 (1992). In reviewing a sentence within statutory limits, this Court may examine the factual basis for sentencing, but will not find error of law or abuse of discretion unless it is clear from the record below that a sentence has been imposed on the basis of demonstrably false information or information lacking a minimal indicia of reliability. Mayes v. State, Del Supr., 604 A.2d at 843; The State argues that review should be de novo, as stated in Logullo v. State, Del. Super. The issue on appeal in Logullo was whether the State had met it's burden of proof at sentencing through introduction of a prior conviction under a similar statute. The Superior Court stated the review of whether the State had met its burden of proof was a question of law, and subsequently addressed whether the Judge had properly taken judicial notice of the statute. Logullo v. State, 1997. Defendant asserts that the standard of review is whether there was sufficient evidence to support the findings of the Trial judge, unless those findings are clearly wrong, relying on State v. Cagle, Del. Supr., 332 A.2d 140 (1974). The Court in Cagle permitted appeal to determine the appropriate scope of review in an appeal on the record from the Court of Common Pleas to the Superior Court regarding a conviction. Id. at 142. It concluded that the appropriate test on such an appeal was whether there was sufficient evidence to support the findings below, not whether the defendant is guilty as charged beyond a reasonable doubt. Id. Although both arguments have merit, neither seems directly applicable here. Logullo involves a determination of whether the Judge properly took judicial notice of a factual question not contested. It is unclear in that case how the Court applied de novo review to a determination of whether the State had met its burden. Absent such reasoning, this Court should not rely on ambiguous language in determining the standard of review in this case. Cagle deals with an appeal on the record of the conviction. There are clear distinctions between the conviction phase of a trial and the sentencing phase, and this Court should not apply the standards of one to the other. Cagle is distinguishable on the basis that this is an appeal from sentencing. The Delaware Supreme Court has stated that when reviewing sentencing of a defendant, review occurs under limited circumstances and pursuant to an abuse of discretion standard. Cropper v. State, Del. Supr. The defendant in Cropper appealed his sentence as a habitual offender. Cropper contended that the Superior Court had erred by considering during sentencing prejudicial evidence not permitted to be presented at trial. Id. The Court stated the review was pursuant to an abuse of discretion standard and consisted of a two-part analysis: determining if the sentence is within statutory limits; if so, limiting review to determination of whether the sentencing court relied upon demonstrably false information.