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State v. Merida

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

May 1, 2019

State
v.
Javier Merida.

          Providence County Superior Court, (P1/04-1031A) Netti C. Vogel Associate Justice.

          For State: Christopher R. Bush Department of the Attorney General.

          For Defendant: Javier Merida, Pro Se.

          Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and Indeglia, JJ.

          OPINION

          Gilbert V. Indeglia Associate Justice.

         The defendant, Javier Merida (Merida or defendant), appeals pro se from an order of the Superior Court denying his motion to correct sentence, pursuant to Rule 35 of the Superior Court Rules of Criminal Procedure. On February 28, 2019, this case came before the Supreme Court pursuant to an order directing the parties to appear and show cause why the issues raised in this appeal should not be summarily decided. After hearing the parties' arguments and reviewing the memoranda submitted by the parties, we are satisfied that cause has not been shown. Accordingly, further briefing or argument is not required to decide this matter. For the reasons explained herein, we affirm the order of the Superior Court.

         I

         Facts and Travel

         This Court thoroughly recounted the underlying facts of this matter in our consideration of defendant's direct appeal and postconviction-relief appeal.[1] Therefore, we only recount facts relevant to this appeal and other facts necessary for context.

         In May 2006, defendant was tried and convicted by a jury of two counts of first-degree child molestation sexual assault, in violation of G.L. 1956 § 11-37-8.1, and one count of second-degree child molestation sexual assault, in violation of § 11-37-8.3, for acts committed against his granddaughter. State v. Merida, 960 A.2d 228, 230, 231 (R.I. 2008). On July 7, 2006, the trial justice sentenced defendant to two forty-year terms of imprisonment, with twenty years to serve and twenty years suspended, with probation, on the two first-degree child molestation sexual assault counts; and one thirty-year term, with ten years to serve and twenty years suspended, with probation, on the second-degree child molestation sexual assault count; all sentences were to be served concurrently. Id. at 230.

         From May 2004 until his determination of guilt in May 2006, defendant was on what he characterizes as "twenty-four hour electronic home confinement" as a condition of bail.[2] In October 2016, following the completion of defendant's direct and postconviction-relief appeals, he filed a "motion for correction of sentence" pro se, pursuant to Rule 35, which was later heard by the same trial justice who presided over Merida's trial. Merida also filed a motion to appoint counsel for the hearing, but the trial justice denied the motion.

         At the hearing on his motion to correct his sentence, defendant argued that the twenty-four months he spent on home confinement should be credited toward his overall sentence, pursuant to G.L. 1956 § 12-19-2(a). Specifically, he argued that this Court's opinion in State v. Quattrocchi, 687 A.2d 78 (R.I. 1996), established that home confinement was a form of "imprisonment" for which credit could be given pursuant to § 12-19-2(a). The trial justice then reviewed several relevant cases decided by this Court, taking time to explain each case to defendant and distinguishing the cases based on their facts.[3] Merida also argued that a prisoner, whom he knew, had received credit toward his sentence for the time he spent on home confinement while awaiting trial. However, at that hearing, defendant could not remember all the details of that case. The trial justice therefore continued the hearing, at defendant's request, so that defendant could obtain more information regarding the case he had mentioned.

         One week later, on November 9, 2016, at the continued hearing, Merida argued that two of his cellmates, Mr. Bagley and Mr. DePina, received credit for home confinement toward their overall sentence. However, the trial justice found those cases distinguishable, explaining that, "[i]t appears that Mr. Bagley was sentenced for bail violation and asked for credit for time served and home confinement, but it wasn't a sentencing after trial where he was held in home confinement as a condition of bail prior to trial." She further explained that Mr. DePina was sentenced after a plea agreement with a "capped" plea, stating that, "if I did give him credit for time served in home confinement, it was in accordance with an agreement whereby he agreed to plead guilty and he pled guilty." Having heard defendant's arguments, the trial justice issued a bench decision denying defendant's request to receive credit for time spent on home confinement.

         Merida filed a timely notice of appeal on December 1, 2016.[4] Before this Court, Merida argues that: (1) the trial justice erred in her interpretation of case precedent, specifically our opinion in Quattrocchi, arguing that the interpretation was inconsistent with the provisions of § 12-19-2(a); (2) his equal-protection rights were violated by virtue of the failure to award him credit for his pretrial time on home confinement;[5] and (3) the trial justice erred in denying ...


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