Plaintiff: Glenn Sparr, Esq.
Defendant: Judy Davis, Esq.
this Court is Anthony DeCiantis' (Petitioner) Application
for Post-Conviction Relief (Application). Petitioner asserts
that his convictions should be vacated because the statute
under which he was convicted in both State of Rhode
Island v. Anthony DeCiantis, P1-1983-0024C and State
of Rhode Island v. Anthony J. DeCiantis P1-1983-0418A
(the underlying criminal cases) is unconstitutional in that
it fails to describe a crime and prescribe a penalty therein.
This Court's jurisdiction is pursuant to G.L. 1956 §
10-9.1-1. Having reviewed the parties' memoranda, and for
the reasons set forth below, this Court finds that
Petitioner's convictions were not unconstitutional.
Accordingly, Petitioner's Application is denied.
January 5, 1983, in State v. Anthony J. DeCiantis,
P1-1983-0024C, Petitioner was indicted on two counts of
murder under G.L. 1956 § 11-23-1 and one count of
possession of a sawed-off shotgun under § 11-47-8, all
of which were alleged to have occurred on November 7, 1982.
On January 10, 1983, Petitioner was arraigned and pled guilty
to each of the three counts. As to each count of murder, he
was sentenced to life imprisonment at the Adult Correctional
Institutions (ACI). As to the count of possession of a
sawed-off shotgun, he was sentenced to five years to serve at
the ACI. The trial justice ordered the sentences to be served
five weeks later, on February 18, 1983, in State v.
Anthony J. DeCiantis, P1-1983-0418A, Petitioner was
indicted on one count of murder under § 11-23-1, which
was alleged to have occurred on December 5, 1981. On June 7,
1984, a jury found Petitioner guilty of murder in the first
degree. On October 17, 1984, he was sentenced to life
imprisonment at the ACI. The trial justice ordered the
sentence to be served consecutively with his previous
sentences in P1-1983-0024C. Petitioner appealed his
conviction and the Rhode Island Supreme Court affirmed.
State v. DeCiantis, 501 A.2d 365 (R.I. 1985).
November 27, 1985, Petitioner filed an application for
post-conviction relief in State v. Anthony J.
DeCiantis, P1-1983-0418A, which was dismissed pursuant
to a grant of the State's motion for summary judgment.
DeCiantis v. State, PM-1985-5167. Petitioner
appealed the decision to the Supreme Court. On appeal, the
court vacated the entry of summary judgment and remanded the
case to the Superior Court to allow Petitioner the
opportunity to present evidence. DeCiantis v. State,
SU-87-0275. On March 23, 1990, Petitioner filed an amended
application for post-conviction relief, which was thereafter
denied. Petitioner appealed the denial decision to the
Supreme Court and the court affirmed. DeCiantis v.
State, 599 A.2d 734 (R.I. 1991).
August 20, 1993, Petitioner filed another application for
post-conviction relief contesting the Parole Board's
denial of his application for parole. DeCiantis v.
State, PM-1993-4677. The trial justice granted the
State's motion for summary judgment and dismissed
Petitioner's application. Petitioner appealed the grant
of summary judgment to the Supreme Court and the court
affirmed. DeCiantis v. State, 666 A.2d 410 (R.I.
February 24, 1998, Petitioner filed a third application for
post-conviction relief in State v. Anthony J.
DeCiantis, P1-1983-0418A. DeCiantis v. State,
PM-1998-0899. On March 27, 2007, the trial justice entered an
order denying Petitioner's application. Petitioner
appealed the trial justice's decision and the Supreme
Court affirmed. DeCiantis v. State, 24 A.3d 557
2000, Petitioner filed a Rule 35 Motion to Correct Sentence
and a Motion to Dismiss Indictment in State v. Anthony J.
DeCiantis, P1-1983-0418A. The trial justice granted his
Rule 35 Motion and denied his Motion to Dismiss. After
granting the State's Petition for Writ of Certiorari, the
Supreme Court quashed the trial justice's order and
reinstated Petitioner's original sentence. State v.
DeCiantis, 813 A.2d 986 (R.I. 2003).
25, 2015, Petitioner filed an application for post-conviction
relief in both underlying criminal cases challenging the
Parole Board's denial of his release on parole, which was
denied on July 19, 2016. DeCiantis v. Rhode Island Parole
Board, PM-2015-2718. Petitioner sought review from the
Supreme Court, and on March 20, 2017, Petitioner's
Petition for Certiorari was denied. DeCiantis v.
October 17, 2018, Petitioner filed a pro se Motion
to Vacate Judgment of Conviction in the underlying criminal
cases, together with a supporting memorandum asking this
Court to vacate his convictions for murder pursuant to Rule
35 of the Superior Court Rules of Criminal Procedure,
alleging that his convictions are
unconstitutional. On December 14, 2018, by agreement of the
Office of the Attorney General and Petitioner's
court-appointed counsel, this Court ordered Petitioner's
Motion to Vacate to be converted to the instant Petition for
Post- Conviction Relief in order that his request under Rule
35 would not suffer the same fate as in State v.
Linde, 965 A.2d 415, 416 n.2 (R.I. 2009) (refusing to
reach merits of a constitutional challenge in the context of
a Rule 35 motion to correct an illegal sentence).
the agreement of the Attorney General and by Order dated
February 22, 2019, this Court limited all
arguments to "the constitutionality of a
criminal statute which allegedly fails to state what
constitutes the crime alleged and/or fails to provide for a
penalty thereunder," without the State raising the
affirmative defenses of res judicata and/or
March 11, 2019, Petitioner's court-appointed counsel
filed a Supplemental Memorandum in Support of
Petitioner's Application for Post-Conviction Relief. The
State filed an objection and supporting memorandum thereto on
April 3, 2019. On May 24, 2019, the Court provided notice to
the State and Petitioner's court-appointed counsel that
Petitioner's request for relief would be considered by
this Court in the context of a summary disposition. The
parties thereafter acknowledged that an evidentiary hearing
was unnecessary to resolve the issues before this Court.
§ 10-9.1-1, any person who has been convicted of a crime
may file an application for post-conviction relief to
challenge the constitutionality of his or her convictions.
Sec. 10-9.1-1(a)(1). Unlike the proceedings afforded to
Petitioner for his underlying conviction, post-conviction
relief motions are civil in nature. Brown v. State,
32 A.3d 901, 908 (R.I. 2011). Accordingly, the applicant
bears "'the burden of proving, by a preponderance of
the evidence, that such [postconviction] relief is
warranted.'" Motyka v. State, 172 A.3d
1203, 1205 (R.I. 2017) (quoting Anderson v. State,
45 A.3d 594, 601 (R.I. 2012)). Additionally, because
Petitioner challenges the constitutionality of his
convictions, Petitioner has the heightened burden of
demonstrating unconstitutionality beyond a reasonable doubt.
See State v. Beck, 114 R.I. 74, 77, 329 A.2d 190,
ruling on an application for post-conviction relief, if the
court considers matters outside the pleadings, the court
should "treat the [party's] motion as though it were
a motion for summary disposition" as opposed to a motion
to dismiss. Palmigiano v. State, 120 R.I. 402, 406,
387 A.2d 1382, 1385 (1978). As will be discussed, this Court
has considered Petitioner's two indictments and the plea
form in State v. Anthony J. DeCiantis,
P1-1983-0024C, which are outside the pleadings in the instant
civil action. Accordingly, this Court will review
Petitioner's Application in the context of a summary
disposition motion under § 10-9.1-6(c), which
"'closely resembles' a grant of summary judgment
under Rule 56 of the Superior Court Rules of Civil
Procedure." Reyes v. State, 141 A.3d 644, 652
(R.I. 2016) (quoting Palmigiano, 120 R.I. at 405,
387 A.2d at 1384).
§ 10-9.1-6(c), the court may grant summary disposition
when it finds, based on "the pleadings, depositions,
answers to interrogatories, and admissions and agreements of
fact, together with any affidavits submitted, that there is
no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Sec.
10-9.1-6(c). The standard for granting summary disposition on
an application for post-conviction relief is the same as in
granting summary judgment under Super. R. Civ. P. 56(c)-the
"trial justice must consider the affidavits and
pleadings . . . in the light most favorable to the party
against whom the motion is made." Palmigiano,
120 R.I. at ...