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State v. Moore

Superior Court of Delaware, New Castle County

October 28, 1954

STATE of Delaware
v.
Willard P. MOORE.

Proceeding on motion by defendant for leave to examine presentence report. The Superior Court, in and for New Castle County, Herrmann, J., held that where defendant had entered plea of guilty to charge of operating motor vehicle while under influence of intoxicating liquor, refusal to permit defendant to examine presentence report did not deny him due process of law by not affording him an opportunity to refute unfavorable information contained in the report.

Motion denied.

Proper administration of criminal justice does not require disclosure of presentence report to defendant or his attorney. Fed.Rules Crim.Proc. rule 32(c), 18 U.S.C.A.; Superior Court Rules, Criminal rule 32(c), Del.C.Ann.

Page 676

Upon the defendant's motion for leave to examine the presentence report. Motion denied.

Stephen E. Hamilton, Jr., Deputy Atty. Gen., for the State.

William E. Taylor, Jr., Wilmington, for defendant.

HERRMANN, Judge.

The defendant entered a plea of guilty to a charge of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor. The Court ordered a presentence investigation pursuant to Criminal Rule 32(c).[1] The presentence report has been [49 Del. 30] prepared and now, prior to the imposition of sentence, the defendant seeks a copy of the report or, at least, an opportunity to examine it. The probation officer has standing instructions from this Court prohibiting him from disclosing the report or its contents to the defendant or his attorney. The defendant's motion challenges the propriety and wisdom of those instructions.

The question for decision is this: Is disclosure of the presentence report to the defendant or his attorney required either (1) by due process of law, or (2) for the improvement of the administration of criminal justice?

1. Due Process

The defendant contends that he is denied due process of law if he is not afforded the opportunity of examining the report which will be considered by the Court in formulating the sentence to be imposed. The defendant urges that due process requires that he not only have knowledge of the contents of the presentence report but also that he have the opportunity to refute unfavorable information contained therein. It is argued by the defendant that an undisclosed presentence report denies to the defendant a fair hearing through all of the stages of the proceedings against him and that, therefore, his constitutional rights are violated.

[49 Del. 31] The Supreme Court of the United States has discussed due process of law in connection with presentence reports. In Williams v. People of State of New York, 337 U.S. 241, 69 S.Ct. 1079, 93 L.Ed. 1337, there was presented a broad constitutional challenge to the statutory policy of New York which permitted a sentencing judge to consider information regarding a convicted defendant's past life, health, habits, conduct and mental and moral propensities, notwithstanding

Page 677

the fact that such information was undisclosed and was obtained outside of the courtroom from persons whom the defendant could not confront or cross-examine. The Court there reviewed the historical latitude allowed to English and American Judges in choosing the sources and types of information to aid them in determining the sentence to be imposed upon a convicted defendant. It was pointed out that such latitude went so far as to include the practice of exercising personal knowledge of the character and background of the offender. Rule 32(c) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, from which our Criminal Rule 32(c) was taken, was called ‘ A recent manifestation of the ...


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