DOVER, Del. — A man who was released from prison last year after more than two decades on Delaware’s death row and is facing a retrial in a 1991 slaying is set to appear in court for a plea and sentencing.
Jermaine Wright is scheduled to appear Monday in New Castle County Superior Court, according to a court calendar.
Details on the plea were not immediately available Friday. It comes six weeks after the Delaware Supreme Court declared the state’s death penalty law unconstitutional.
Carl Kanefsky, a spokesman for the state Department of Justice, confirmed that a plea and sentencing hearing was scheduled, but he declined further comment.
Prosecutor Steve Wood also declined to comment.
Herb Mondros, an attorney representing Wright, did not immediately respond to email and phones messages Friday evening.
Wright was sentenced to death in 1992 for the killing of Phillip Seifert, 66, a clerk at a liquor store and bar outside Wilmington.
After reversing a judge’s 2012 ruling overturning Wright’s conviction and death sentence, Delaware’s Supreme Court itself overturned the conviction in 2014.
But earlier this year, the Supreme Court said the judge who overturned Wright’s conviction in 2012 erred in declaring last year that Wright’s 1991 confession was inadmissible and could not be used at his retrial. The Supreme Court’s decision cleared the way for prosecutors to refile charges against Wright, who was taken back into custody.
In July, the judge recently assigned to the case refused to hold a new a bail hearing for Wright, agreeing with prosecutors that a 1991 ruling that Wright was not entitled to bail was the “law of the case” and should not be revisited.
In arguing for a new bail hearing, Wright’s attorneys said potentially exculpatory information suggesting that Seifert may have been killed by two men who tried to rob another nearby liquor store less than an hour earlier was not discussed at the 1991 hearing. They also said the judge at that time was unaware of the coercive nature of Wright’s police interrogation and confession.
Wright’s videotaped confession, after a lengthy interrogation while he was under the influence of heroin, was key to his conviction, as prosecutors had no physical evidence linking him to the crime.
Before declaring Wright’s confession inadmissible last year, Superior Court Judge John Parkins Jr. overturned his conviction and death sentence in 2012, saying Wright was not properly advised of his rights, and that prosecutors withheld evidence about the earlier attempted robbery.
The Supreme Court reversed Parkins’ ruling, saying arguments about the confession were procedurally barred, and that evidence about the earlier robbery attempt would not have led to a different result.
In 2014, however, the Supreme Court itself overturned Wright’s conviction after his attorneys argued that prosecutors failed to disclose potentially helpful information to the defense regarding a jailhouse informant and another witness who testified against Wright.
Last month, a majority of state Supreme Court justices said Delaware’s death penalty law was unconstitutional because it allowed judges too much discretion and did not require that a jury find unanimously and beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant deserves execution.
Attorney General Matt Denn declined to appeal that ruling in federal court but said he believes that it cannot be applied retroactively to the 13 men already on death row.