Articles Posted in Delaware Supreme Court

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The Delaware Supreme Court found that the trial court abused its discretion in this case when it denied defendant Chistopher Clay’s motion for judgment of acquittal on his Tampering with Physical Evidence charge, but rejected his remaining claims. The Court also found the trial court erred by requiring the State to provide a copy of the Department of Justice’s intake document and copies of the prosecutor’s notes under Superior Court Criminal Rule 26.2. Clay appealed after a jury verdict found him guilty of Robbery in the First Degree, Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony, Tampering with Physical Evidence, Conspiracy in the Second Degree, and Resisting Arrest. He claimed: (1) the trial court abused its discretion by denying his motion to sever his trial from the trial of his co-defendants; (2) the trial court erred by denying his motion for judgment of acquittal on all charges; and (3) the trial court erred by finding the police possessed a reasonable, articulable suspicion to seize him and probable cause to arrest him. On cross-appeal, the State argued that the Superior Court abused its discretion by requiring the State to provide the defendant with a redacted copy of a Department of Justice intake document and a copy of the prosecutor’s notes from witness interviews under Superior Court Criminal Rule 26.2. View "Clay v. Delaware" on Justia Law

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A 54-count indictment charged Otis Phillips and numerous co-defendants with gang participation and charges associated with the activities of the “Sure Shots” criminal street gang, including three counts of first degree murder and first degree attempted murder. The jury acquitted Phillips on a count of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, but guilty on all other charges. Phillips was sentenced to death for the murder charges, life for second degree murder, and 130 years for the remaining offenses. Phillips appealed, arguing multiple errors at trial warranted reversal of his convictions. After review, the Delaware Supreme Court found Phillips’ death sentence should be vacated, and that he should have been resentenced on his first degree murder charge. The remainder of his arguments were without merit. View "Phillips v. Delaware" on Justia Law

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In 2015 Appellant Gabriel Pardo was convicted of Manslaughter, Leaving the Scene of a Collision Resulting in Death (LSCRD), Reckless Driving, and six counts of Endangering the Welfare of a Child. The charges arose from his involvement in a fatal hit-and-run collision with a bicyclist, Phillip Bishop, in 2014. The principal issue raised in this appeal was whether Pardo’s conviction for LSCRD violated his Due Process rights, as he contends that the LSCRD statute imposes strict liability. Pardo also contended that the Superior Court erred by adding a voluntary intoxication instruction to the pattern jury instruction for manslaughter, by denying his motion for judgment of acquittal, and by denying his request for a missing evidence instruction. The Supreme Court concluded that the statute governing LSCRD did not impose strict liability because it required the State to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant had knowledge that he or she was involved in a collision. Because the Court found Pardo’s other arguments without merit, it affirmed his conviction and sentence. View "Pardo v. Delaware" on Justia Law

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This appeal addressed the legal issues raised by the second of two criminal trials over a single incident where defendant Djavon Holland allegedly burst into an apartment, brandished a gun, and demanded money. A brawl unfolded in which Holland and the apartment‘s occupants were all injured. Holland was indicted before the first trial for two counts of Assault First Degree along with twelve other related charges. After trial, Holland was acquitted on both of the Assault First Degree counts, but the jury was unable to reach a conclusion on the other charges. The various issues in this appeal stemmed from the State‘s decision to reindict Holland. The second indictment included both the charges on which the first jury hung, and, for the first time, three counts of Attempted Robbery First Degree. After the second trial, the jury convicted Holland of two of the three counts of Attempted Robbery and the majority of the other charges from the second indictment. On appeal, Holland made a series of arguments challenging the new charges in the second indictment, and attacking the second trial as a whole on Sixth Amendment grounds. After review, the Delaware Supreme Court reversed Holland‘s convictions for Attempted Robbery and Home Invasion and the associated counts of Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony because the State failed to overcome the presumption of vindictive prosecution. But, because the Court found that his waiver of his right to counsel was knowing, intelligent, and voluntary, and reject his other claims, Holland‘s convictions for Assault Second Degree, the related count of Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony, and Criminal Mischief stand. View "Holland v. Delaware" on Justia Law

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In 2001, Luis E. Reyes was convicted of two counts of Murder in the First Degree, two counts of Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony, and two counts of Conspiracy in the First Degree in what came to be known as the "Rockford Park Murders." For these crimes, he was sentenced to death, which was affirmed on direct appeal to the Delaware Supreme Court. On March 25, 2004, Reyes filed a timely motion for postconviction relief. Twelve years later, after a lengthy procedural process, during which the trial judge retired and the postconviction proceeding was assigned to his successor, the Superior Court issued an opinion granting Reyes' motion and vacating his convictions and sentences. The Superior Court found that several errors occurred during the guilt phase of Reyes' trial. The Superior Court also found that Reyes' trial attorneys were ineffective for failing to establish that certain testimony was based on hearsay; by failing to calling certain witnesses; failing to request a "missing evidence" jury instruction; and by failing to offer into evidence statements a witness made in an interview with one of Reyes' trial attorneys. In addition, Reyes contends that his trial attorneys were ineffective in ways not ruled upon by the Superior Court. The State claims that the Superior Court committed error in all of its rulings. The State also contended that the other ineffective assistance of counsel claims asserted by Reyes were without merit. After careful consideration of all the issues presented, the Delaware Supreme court concluded the State was correct. The Superior Court's grant of Reyes' postconviction motion was reversed. View "Delaware v. Reyes" on Justia Law

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A grand jury issued a 54 count indictment charging defendant-appellant Otis Phillips, Jeffrey Phillips, and fourteen other co-defendants with gang related crimes relating to criminal activity of the "Sure Shot" street gang. Otis was charged with three counts of first degree murder, first degree attempted murder, gang participation, conspiracy, reckless endangerment, possession of firearms, assault and criminal mischief. The superior court denied severance motions and instead conducted a joint capital trial of Otis and Jeffrey lasting 21 days. The jury acquitted Otis of one possession charge and conspiracy, but convicted on everything else. Otis would later be sentenced to death for the first degree murder charge, life imprisonment plus an additional 130 years for everything else. Otis appealed. Finding that Otis' death sentence had to be vacated, the Supreme Court remanded this case for resentencing on the murder charge only. The Court affirmed the remaining sentences, finding no reversible error in the superior court's judgment. View "Phillips v. Delaware" on Justia Law

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A grand jury issued a 54 count indictment charging defendant-appellant Jeffrey Phillips, Otis Phillips, and fourteen other co-defendants with gang related crimes relating to criminal activity of the "Sure Shot" street gang. Jeffrey was charged with two counts of first degree murder, first degree attempted murder, gang participation, first degree conspiracy, reckless endangerment, possession of firearms, assault and criminal mischief. The superior court denied severance motions and instead conducted a joint capital trial of Otis and Jeffrey lasting 21 days. The jury acquitted Jeffrey of assault and conspiracy charges, but convicted on everything else. Jeffrey would later be sentenced to life imprisonment plus an additional 72 years. Jeffrey appealed. Finding none of Jeffrey's arguments had merit, the Supreme Court affirmed his convictions. View "Phillips v. Delaware" on Justia Law

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Andrew Lloyd appeals his convictions for racketeering and other offenses related to his role in a Delaware heroin trafficking ring. He raised four issues on appeal: (1) the Superior Court abused its discretion by giving a jury instruction that did not adequately define “enterprise” according to the Delaware RICO statute; (2) the State presented insufficient evidence to prove that Lloyd was engaged in an “association-in-fact” enterprise under the RICO statute; (3) the State improperly vouched for and bolstered certain witnesses’ testimony by asking several of the witnesses about the contents of their plea agreements; and (4) the cumulative effect of the errors violated his due process rights. After a careful review of the record on appeal, the Delaware Supreme Court found no merit to any of these claims. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the Superior Court’s judgment. View "Lloyd v. Delaware" on Justia Law

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Defendant Derrick Powell appealed the superior court's denial of his motion for postconviction relief. During the pendency of that appeal, Powell moved to vacated his death sentence based on the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in "Hurst v. Florida," and the Delaware Supreme Court's interpretation of that decision in "Rauf v. Delaware." The only issue addressed in this decision was Powell's motion to vacate this death sentence. The question presented by Powell's motion was whether the holding in "Rauf" applied to a death sentence was already final when "Rauf" was decided. The Delaware Supreme Court concluded that the decision of "Rauf" applied retroactively to Powell's case, and that his death sentence should have been vacated, and Powell sentenced to life imprisonment. View "Powell v. Delaware" on Justia Law

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The State appealed the superior court’s order granting Catherine Culp’s second pro se motion for sentence modification, which the court reviewed as a Motion for Review of Sentence. The superior court held that Culp’s rehabilitative efforts demonstrated “beyond cavil extraordinary circumstances” justifying reduction of her sentence pursuant to Superior Court Criminal Rule 35(b). On appeal, the State argued that the superior court abused its discretion in granting the Motion, which the State contended was barred as repetitive and untimely. After review, the Delaware Supreme Court concluded that the superior court’s modification of Culp’s sentence ignored the plain language of Rule 35(b) and established precedent, thereby abusing its discretion. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the superior court’s order. View "Delaware v. Culp" on Justia Law