DOVER, Delaware — The Delaware Supreme Court is weighing another appeal by a man sentenced to death for a 1991 liquor store killing.
The justices heard arguments Wednesday in the case of Jermaine Wright, who was convicted of killing 65-year-old Phillip Seifert, a clerk at the Hi-Way Inn liquor store and bar outside Wilmington.
The Supreme Court last year overturned a Superior Court judge's 2012 ruling that tossed out Wright's conviction and death sentence. Before his conviction was thrown out, Wright had spent more time on death row than any other Delaware inmate currently facing execution.
Wright's attorneys are now asking the justices to consider issues they say were not settled when the Supreme Court reinstated Wright's conviction and death sentence last year.
"The court did not explicitly mention them in the previous appeal, so it's unclear whether they're previously adjudicated," said defense attorney Claudia van Wyk.
Prosecutors argue that the new defense claims are procedurally barred because they were not brought up on cross-appeal when the state challenged the ruling that overturned Wright's conviction and death sentence.
"They are without jurisdiction to appeal," argued deputy attorney general Maria Knoll.
Defense attorneys contend, among other things, that prosecutors failed to disclose information to Wright's trial attorneys about a jailhouse informant who testified against Wright. Wright's attorneys say prosecutors failed to notify the defense that Gerald Samuels had previously cooperated with authorities in agreeing to testify against a co-defendant in an earlier drug case, obtaining a plea deal in return, and that Samuels expected similar leniency in return for testifying against Wright.
Wright's attorneys also argue that prosecutors failed to divulge information about another witness, who Wright's trial attorneys argued had committed the liquor store killing with a cousin.
Wright's attorneys claim prosecutors knew but failed to divulge that Kevin Jamison, who had been called as a witness by defense attorneys, committed perjury in testifying against Wright. According to court records, Jamison had an outstanding arrest warrant that was not executed until immediately after his testimony. Jamison testified that he and his cousin did not see each other very often and did not run around together, but the arrest warrant charged both men with committing a robbery together shortly before Wright's trial.
Wright's attorneys also argued Wednesday that his trial lawyers failed to conduct an adequate investigation of mitigating factors weighing against the death penalty. They also say his post-conviction attorneys provided ineffective assistance.
The Supreme Court is expected to issue its ruling within 90 days. Participating in Wednesday's hearing was Chancellor Leo Strine Jr., who was recently confirmed by the state Senate as Delaware's new chief justice. Strine has not yet been sworn in, however, and veteran Justice Randy Holland occupied the center chair where the chief justice sits.