Articles Posted in Delaware Supreme Court

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Ron Flowers and his co-defendant, Tariq Mariney, were indicted on charges of Drug Dealing, Aggravated Possession of Cocaine, Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony (“PFDCF”), Carrying a Concealed Deadly Weapon (“CCDW”), two counts each of Possession of a Firearm By a Person Prohibited (“PFBPP”) and Possession or Control of Ammunition By a Person Prohibited (“PABPP”), Receiving a Stolen Firearm, and Conspiracy Second Degree. Flowers moved to suppress evidence before trial, but in a bench ruling, the Superior Court denied his motion. A jury ultimately convicted Flowers of two counts of PFBPP as well as the CCDW charge, for which Flowers was sentenced to five years of incarceration followed by descending levels of supervision. On appeal, Flowers argued the Superior Court abused its discretion in denying his motion to suppress. Finding no reversible error nor abuse of discretion, the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed Flowers' conviction. View "Flowers v. Delaware" on Justia Law

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Alan Fowler was present during two melees at which gun shots were fired, and bystanders were shot. Fowler was convicted on multiple crimes arising from the shootings. After Fowler’s trial and direct appeal were over, it emerged during post-conviction proceedings that the State had failed to provide "Jencks" statements to the defense of four of its key witnesses. In ruling on his post-conviction petition, the Superior Court held that the State had proved the error was harmless, largely based on the testimony of the State’s ballistics expert, Carl Rone, who said that the same gun was used in both incidents. When this case was on appeal, evidence emerged that the expert, who was not properly certified in the relevant area of firearms identification as of trial, was being charged by the State with Theft by False Pretense over $1,500 and Falsifying Business Records to Make or Cause False Entry for “providing false [Delaware State Police] activity sheets and receiving compensation from [Delaware State Police] for work that was not performed.” The State asked the Delaware Supreme Court to excuse the serious issues with its expert’s credibility in the Fowler case because of the compelling nature of testimony by witnesses, several of whose Jencks statements were not timely disclosed. The Supreme Court found that when the reliability of both strains of the key evidence the State used to prove Fowler was the shooter has been called into question, Rule 61 required setting aside the conviction. But rather than impose upon the Superior Court the burdensome step of conducting an evidentiary hearing under Rule 61 in these unusual circumstances, the Supreme Court vacated Fowler’s conviction and remanded for a new trial. View "Fowler v. Delaware" on Justia Law

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A jury found Zamarianne Bradley guilty of first-degree assault of a law enforcement officer and resisting arrest. She appealed that conviction and the trial court’s ruling denying her motion for acquittal, arguing the evidence was insufficient for the jury to find that Bradley’s victim suffered the requisite “serious physical injury” for the First Degree Assault conviction, and that the jury instruction on that charge prevented the jury from intelligently performing its duties. Finding no reversible error, the Delaware Supreme Court denied Bradley’s requests on appeal and affirmed Bradley’s conviction. View "Bradley v. Delaware" on Justia Law

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Appellant Jamar Thompson challenged a Superior Court finding that he violated his probation. On appeal he argued: (1) his right to due process under Amendment XIV of the United States Constitution was violated because he was provided with an untimely and incomplete disclosure of the evidence against him, he was unavailable to testify, and a witness he intended to call was not permitted to testify; (2) the Superior Court violated his rights under Amendments IV and XIV of the United States Constitution and Article I section 6 of the Delaware Constitution by refusing to consider his argument, made at the hearing, that the evidence against him was the product of an unlawful search and seizure and should be suppressed; and (3) the evidence against him was insufficient to support a finding that he violated his probation. After considering Thompson’s claims, the Delaware Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed the Superior Court's judgment. View "Thompson v. Delaware" on Justia Law

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Russell Grimes was accused of participating in a bank robbery. He was indicted for first-degree robbery, aggravated menacing, and other related charges. At trial, the jury convicted him of first-degree robbery, but acquitted him of aggravated menacing. He appealed, and based on an error that occurred during jury selection, the Delaware Supreme Court vacated his first-degree robbery conviction and remanded for a new trial. A jury again convicted him of first-degree robbery. The question this case presented for the Supreme Court's review: if a defendant is convicted by a jury of one offense, but acquitted - in the same verdict - of a lesser-included offense, and the conviction on the greater offense is vacated on appeal, does the acquittal on the lesser offense prevent the State, under the Double Jeopardy Clause, from retrying the defendant for the greater offense? The Court concluded it did not. View "Grimes v. Delaware" on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellant, Terrance Everett accepted a Facebook friend request from a detective who was using a fictitious profile. The detective then used information gained from such monitoring to obtain a search warrant for Everett’s house, where officers discovered evidence that prosecutors subsequently used to convict him. Everett asked the trial court to determine whether the detective knowingly and intentionally, or with reckless disregard for the truth, omitted information from the affidavit- namely, information concerning the detective’s covert Facebook monitoring - that was material to the magistrate’s finding of probable cause. Everett argued that, if he made this showing by a preponderance of the evidence at such a hearing, then the evidence obtained via this warrant should have been suppressed. The Superior Court denied Everett’s motion. The Delaware Supreme Court affirmed the superior court's denial of Everett's motion, finding the Fourth Amendment does not protect a defendant who exposes incriminating evidence to an undercover police officer after he voluntarily "friended" the officer on Facebook. View "Everett v. Delaware" on Justia Law

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David Buckham was convicted at trial of assault in the first degree and related charges in connection with a shooting. His appeal presented two questions of criminal procedure for the Delaware Supreme Court’s consideration: (1) the propriety of the trial court’s decision to call a recess at the State’s request so that one of the State’s witnesses, who was in the middle of testifying (and in the middle of recanting a statement he had given to investigators before trial) could consult with his lawyer; and (2) whether it was plain error for the trial court to uphold a warrant that authorized a search of “[a]ny and all store[d] data” on Buckham’s cell phone for any evidence of any kind that might link him to the shooting. Buckham was forbidden by the trial court from cross-examining the witness about what transpired during the consultation. He argued it was reversible error to allow it and a violation of his confrontation rights to bar him from cross-examining the witness about it. The trial court sustained the warrant despite recognizing that the only nexus the warrant application established between his phone and the shooting was that the phone might have contained GPS data that might have been useful to investigators. The search instead turned up some arguably incriminating Facebook messages Buckham contended should have been suppressed. The Supreme Court agreed the trial court’s decision to allow the State’s witness a midtestimony consultation with counsel was reversible error, and that the decision to uphold the warrant and admit the Facebook messages was plain error. The Court therefore reversed Buckham’s convictions and remanded for a new trial. View "Buckham v. Delaware" on Justia Law

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Appellant Christopher Rivers was convicted by jury trial on two counts of Murder in the First Degree, two Counts of Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony, Conspiracy in the First Degree, and Criminal Solicitation in the First Degree. He appealed, arguing: (1) the trial court’s denial of his motion for a change of venue from New Castle County to either Kent or Sussex County prevented him from receiving a fair and impartial jury trial because of highly inflammatory and sensationalized media coverage and the New Castle County public’s reaction to it; and (2) the trial court abused its discretion by admitting into evidence co-defendants’ statements made after the murders were committed pursuant to the co-conspirator hearsay exception under Delaware Rule of Evidence 801(d)(2)(E). Finding no merit to either claim, the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed. View "Rivers v. Delaware" on Justia Law

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Appellant Christopher Rivers was convicted by jury trial on two counts of Murder in the First Degree, two Counts of Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony, Conspiracy in the First Degree, and Criminal Solicitation in the First Degree. He appealed, arguing: (1) the trial court’s denial of his motion for a change of venue from New Castle County to either Kent or Sussex County prevented him from receiving a fair and impartial jury trial because of highly inflammatory and sensationalized media coverage and the New Castle County public’s reaction to it; and (2) the trial court abused its discretion by admitting into evidence co-defendants’ statements made after the murders were committed pursuant to the co-conspirator hearsay exception under Delaware Rule of Evidence 801(d)(2)(E). Finding no merit to either claim, the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed. View "Rivers v. Delaware" on Justia Law

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Two 16-year-old high school students got into a shouting match in the girls' bathroom. Things turned physical when Tracy Cannon threw Alcee Johnson-Franklin to the ground and started throwing punches. Alcee tried to protect herself from the blows, and the two ended up on the floor of the bathroom, grappling and kicking at each other. It was over in less than a minute, but within two hours of the assault, Alcee was pronounced dead, not from blunt-force trauma, but from a rare heart condition that even Alcee did not know she had. This tragic result prompted the State to charge Tracy with criminally negligent homicide, and, after a five-day bench trial in Family Court, she was adjudicated delinquent. Tracy appealed, arguing no reasonable factfinder could have found that she acted with criminal negligence or, even if she did, that it would be just to blame her for Alcee’s death given how unforeseeable it was that her attack would cause a 16-year-old to die from cardiac arrest. The Delaware Supreme Court agreed: a defendant cannot be held responsible for criminally negligent homicide unless there was a risk of death of such a nature and degree that her failure to see it was a gross deviation from what a reasonable person would have understood, and no reasonable factfinder could conclude that Tracy’s attack - which inflicted only minor physical injuries - posed a risk of death so great that Tracy was grossly deviant for not recognizing it. View "Cannon v. Delaware" on Justia Law