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Lewes, Delaware
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June 7, 1996     Cape Gazette
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June 7, 1996
 

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14 - CApE GAZETTE, Pr/day, June 7 - June 13, 1996 Judge chides lawyers for not settling in Chase case By Kerry Kester The Michael Chase trial will be- gin as scheduled On Monday, June 10 following the case review be- fore Superior Court Judge T. Hen- ley Graves, where both the state and defense teams failed to reach a plea agreement during the coun- ty's new final case review or "Drop Dead Case Review" proce- dure. The new procedure, instituted on June 1, provides that all plea agreements must be reached dur- ing the final case review. If no agreement is reached, the trial will proceed as scheduled and the de- fendant's only plea option will be to plead guilty to the charges as stated. This new procedure differs from the previous system which allowed defendants to work out a plea agreement with prosecutors at any time prior to or during a tri- M. The Michael Chase negligent homicide case is the first to be re- viewed under the new system. "No plea offer has been extend- ed, nor would one be accepted," said John Sandy, defense attorney, to Graves at the onset of Chase's Thursday, June 6 final case re- view. Graves, clearly agitated that the prosecutors and defense attor- neys had not discussed a plea agreement said, "You can all sit down and talk about pleas. You all can talk a little bit - cool down a little bit. I'm not going to re- lease you all at this point. [The case] - it's complex. It's got a lot of emotional overtones to it." He ordered both teams of attor- neys to engage in "meaningful discussions" and discuss the po- tential length of a trial. He then left the courtroom. Approximate- ly 20 minutes later, both counsels returned to the courtroom and Graves was sum- moned. "We' ve had discus- sions in re- gard to the possibility of a plea," said CHASE Mark Bunit- sky, deputy attorney general. "They have not been successful." Graves reminded the lawyers that the case was the first case in the final case review process and the option for a later plea would be lost. The case would have to go to trial as scheduled. Attorneys for the defense acknowledged they understood the situation and voiced concern to the judge about the trial schedule, indicating the two weeks of time allotted might not be sufficient. Chase's attorney, Joseph Hurley of Wilmington, said that their con- eern was that the case had "mush- roomed." Thedefense had 35 wit- nesses, and the state has 15 or 16. The judge told the four attor- neys that the onus for managing their time and resources well was on them and the trial would begin as scheduled on Monday, June 10 in Superior Court. Chase stands charged with Sussex implements new plea procedure By Kerry Kester Criminal cases in Sussex County are now under- going a new procedure that is intended to make the courts more efficient. The new procedure, final case review - referred to by many as "Drop Dead Case Review" - went into effect June 1, and the first time it was used was for the Michael Chase criminally negligent homicide case. According to Superior Court Judge T. Henley Graves, the new procedure is designed to allow at- torneys one final date prior to the trial date in which they may reach a plea agreement. Should they fail to reach that agreement at that time, the trial must proceed as scheduled, and the only plea possible is "guilty" to the exact charges a defen- dant faces. 'q'he whole purpose...is to avoid the expense of the jurors and avoid the inconvenience to jurors," said Graves. "We're always apologizing to ju- rors." He said sometimes a day could be scheduled for 10 trials. "Some days all ten of those will plead out," he said. Or, he said, a continuance could be needed or a capias would need to be issued in order for the trial to begin. When that happens, he ex- plained, in addition to the wasted time of the po- tential jurors, tax money is wasted paying them. "Also, it's going to save a lot of money for the Delaware State Police and the [municipal] police," said Graves. Officer time will not be wasted in a like manner to that of the potential jurors, overtime criminally negligent homicide in the death of his 18-month-old child, who died Aug. 22, 1995 from hypertherrnia, or heat stroke. At the time of the accident, Cpl. Preston Lewis, Delaware State Police spokesman, said the Chase family allegedly had a communi- costs will be avoided, or officers will be able to be on duty. Victims, too, suffer when cases plead out just prior to the beginning of a trial, Graves said. The victim, who has already undergone a trauma or stress of some sort, has wasted time waiting for the plea agreement. "That adds insult to injury," Graves said. "Our goal is to try to avoid those kinds of things." Graves said the impetus behind the new proce- dure is to better utilize the limited court financial resources. With budget Cuts being a common problem, it appears that Sussex County will not garner new judges or staff, in spite of the heavy caseloads all judges have. As a result, said Graves, it became necessary to seek innovative means to make the courts more efficient. Judges learned about the final case review process during a conference approximately four years ago, he said. At the time, he said, it wasn't a pressing issue because the backlog of cases wasn't as heavy. Both Sussex and Kent counties are now piloting the program, he said. New Castle County, he said, has for approximately two years been us- ing a similar system for criminal drug cases. "We're doing it for all felonies down here," Graves said. "It's something new for Delaware. We're going off on a pilot program now, hoping it's going to work." Graves said the concept has been used in other states and in federal courts. cation breakdown. Chase, a 48-year-old restaura- teur from Knoxville, Tenn. was apparently unaware that his wife had put the boy in the child re- straint seat on the back seat, be- hind the driver's seat of the vehi- cle he was driving. Chase went to a meeting in Dewey Beach, and because the borrowed Chevrolet Suburban be was driving had tint- ed windows and high-backed seats, he apparently did not see the child in the car until he returned to it three hours later. The tempera- ture at the time was 82 degrees. DelDOT unveils long range transportation plan for Sussex By Michael Short Sussex County Council re- ceived a sneak peak at the pro- posed long range transportation plan for Sussex on June 4. That plan, which is only a draft, will be formally released next week and a public comment peri- od of about 30 days will follow. The plan itself could be adopted in August and would become part of the county's comprehensive land use plan, which is due to be done by the end of the year. A workshop is also expected to be held after the end of the com- ment period. That prompted Dale Dukes, the County Council presi- dent, to say that the public often doesn't get involved until the plan is on the table. "People don't get interested until you tell them they can't do something," he said. The proposed plan touches heavily on familiar Department of Transportation themes and is in- tended to be a guide for the future. Some highlights of the recom- mendations include development of a county road system. Such a system would designate rural roads as roads which should be maintained in good condition. The roads, however, should not be expanded and should remain rural in character. As such, development would be discouraged on these roads, which would be basically located in the middle of the county and in the far western stretches of Sussex Coun- ty, away from Coastal Sussex, Seaford and other rural areas. Residents would have a chance to vote on whether or not to in- elude their roads in the system. Ralph Reeb of Delaware's De- partment of Transportation (Del- DOT), said people have been very supportive of that idea. Some of the other key elements of the pla n include improving emergency evacuation routes. One way to do that is by placing emergency route signs along those roads, something which has re- cently been done. Another element of that effort will be paving shoulders of emer- gency routes to allow, in dire emergencies, three lanes of traffic to move in one direction. Other key portions of the plan call for corridor preservation to maintain roadway capacity and emphasizing improvements to ex- isting roadways and increasing public transportation. "This is what we would like our world to be," Reeb said. When Councilman George Collins said that DelDOT's plans have some- times seemed lacking in vision, Reeb said this plan is designed to change that. All three counties are develop- ing such plans after a series of public meetings to get input on the issues. Reeb said those meetings were designed to find out what the public wants. "This is really not DelDOT's vision," Reeb said. On the issue of transit, Reeb said that several more communi- ties are expected to be added to a public transportation system in Sussex. Bus service has recently been expanded and further service is expected to incorporate several new communities in the fall. Reeb said the emphasis on im- proving existing roads means more emphasis on improving cur- rent roads instead of building new roads. That can be done through efforts like new paving and adding turning lanes. Sen. Robert Voshell (D-Mil- ford) has introduced legislation designed to make it easier for the state to preserve roadway corri- dors and roadway capacity by pur- chasing property along those roads where necessary. Such ef- forts to limit the number of en- trances and access on roads is de- signed to keep them from becom- ing bogged down with traffic. ANTICIPATED TRANSPORTATION PROBLEM AREAS IN 2020 GbaBmg ; g g _ - ._ "Go >d. >'" "130 Ramlm  ., o4  zm zo. 1 S.R. 404 near Woodenhawk 20,1001 12,000 z -/ 2 S.R. 404 west of Bridgeville 12,500 12,000  ,f 3 S.R. 36 west of Greenwood 12,100 12,000 ," , 4 S.R. 16 near Oakley 9,400 10,000 " " 5 S.R. 16 near Ellendale 10,800 12,000  " 6 S.R. 1 south of S.R. 16 45,500 44,000  7 S.R. 1 near Rehoboth Beach 58,900 48,000  ,/  8 U.S. 9 east of Five Points 13,500 12,000  4" 9 U.S. 113 near Georgetown 29,000 40,000 4" .f .I ,/ 10 S.R. 404 west of Georgetown 9,700 10,000 , " 11 S.R. 20 west of Ssaford 9,900 10,000  12 Central Avenue in Laurel 13,300 12,000 4"  13 U.S. 13 north of Delmar 31,443 40,000 ,r ,/ ,f 14 U.S. 113 north of SelbyvHle 27,000 40,000 4" 4" 15 S 382 near Omar 14,600 12,000 4" 16 U.S. t13 north of Dagsboro 51,000 40,000 ,  " 4" 17 S.R. 24 east of Milllsboro 11,200 12,000 ,r 18 S 297 north of Oak Orchard 14,400 12,000 4" ,f ,( 19 S.R. 1 south of Dewey Beach 59,100 48,000 "  20 S.R. 1 near Indian River Inlet 63,300 48,000 ,( "( 21 S.R. 26 near Ocean View 19,400 12,000 4"  22 S.R. 17 north of Roxana 11,900 10,000 ,/" 23 S.R. 54 west of Wi|liamsville 8,100 10,000 ,( ' ,f "( The chart above shows anticipated transportation problem areas in the year 2020. Stickels took the opportunity to push for more highway funding for Sussex County. He noted that the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), a blueprint of future road projects, calls for $189 million in funding in New Castle Coun- ty and about $35 million in fund- ing for Sussex County. That's Continued on page 15