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Robinson v. State

Supreme Court of Delaware

October 25, 2013

Jeremy L. ROBINSON, Defendant Below, Appellant,
v.
STATE of Delaware, Plaintiffs Below, Appellee.

Submitted: Aug. 28, 2012.

Editorial Note:

This decision has been designated as "Table of Decisions Without Published Opinions." in the Atlantic Reporter.

Court Below: Superior Court of the State of Delaware in New Castle County, Cr. ID No. 1111015589.

Before STEELE, Chief Justice, HOLLAND and BERGER, Justices.

ORDER

MYRON T. STEELE, Chief Justice.

This 25th day of October 2013, upon consideration of the parties' briefs and the record on appeal, it appears to the Court that:

1. Appellant Jeremy L. Robinson appeals his conviction in the Superior Court of Possession of a Firearm by a Person Prohibited (PFBPP).[1]

2. Police arrested Robinson on November 22, 2011. Police patted Robinson down and found 3.4 grams of crack cocaine, $182 in cash, and a key to a particular house under surveillance in Robinson's pants pocket. After taking Robinson into custody, Police obtained and executed a search warrant on the house. The police found a scale and plastic baggies on the kitchen counter, and a .38 Smith and Wesson revolver, loaded with six rounds of ammunition, in the broiler drawer of the oven.

3. The police questioned Robinson after reading him his Miranda rights. Robinson admitted selling drugs, but explained that he found the gun in a nearby alleyway and placed it in the oven at the house without ever using it. At trial, Robinson testified that he fabricated his statement to police regarding the gun because he wanted to avoid being charged with any murders or robberies in which the gun may have been used.

4. A New Castle County grand jury indicted Robinson on the following charges: Drug Dealing; PFBPP; and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia.[2] On April 10, 2012, Robinson filed a motion to suppress his statements to police regarding the handgun. After an evidentiary hearing, a Superior Court judge denied the motion on May 11, 2012. Beginning on June 5, 2012, the Superior Court held a three-day jury trial and convicted Robinson of Drug Dealing and PFBPP.

5. Immediately before trial, Robinson advised the trial judge that he intended to stipulate that he was a " person prohibited" from possessing a firearm. At trial, Robinson objected to a proposed jury instruction on the charge of PFBPP because the instruction stated that a previous felony conviction qualified him as a person prohibited. In response, the trial judge explained that he did not intend to remove the reference to Robinson's prior felony conviction in the indictment and jury instructions unless Robinson provided legal authority that specifically required a change. Robinson's trial counsel failed to provide adequate legal authority to remove the reference to Robinson's prior felony conviction.

6. Robinson then requested that, if the trial judge intended to include the prior felony conviction language in the indictment and jury instructions, a limiting instruction be given to prevent the jury from impermissibly inferring a criminal propensity. The judge orally agreed to give the limiting instruction if the reference to Robinson's prior felony conviction remained in the originally proposed jury instructions. The trial judge gave the following jury instruction for the charge of PFBPP:

In order to find the defendant guilty of possession of a firearm by a person prohibited[,] ... you must find that all of the following elements have been established beyond a reasonable doubt: One, the defendant knowingly owned, possessed, or controlled a firearm at the time of the charged offense; in this case a handgun; two, the defendant was prohibited from purchasing, owning, or possessing or controlling a firearm because he had been previously convicted of a felony. The parties have stipulated or agreed that the defendant ...

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