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Banks v. State

Supreme Court of Delaware

May 22, 2014

NATHANIEL BANKS, Defendant Below, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF DELAWARE, Plaintiff Below, Appellee

Submitted May 14, 2014

Case Closed June 9, 2014.

Court Below -- Superior Court of the State of Delaware, in and for New Castle County. Cr. I.D. 1209011769.

Bernard J. O'Donnell, Esquire, Office of the Public Defender, Wilmington, Delaware, for appellant.

Karen V. Sullivan, Esquire, Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware, for appellee.

Before HOLLAND, BERGER and RIDGELY, Justices.

OPINION

Page 644

HOLLAND, Justice:

The defendant-appellant, Nathaniel Banks (" Banks" ), appeals from final judgments entered in the Superior Court. Following a jury trial, Banks was convicted of Assault in the Third Degree, Carrying a Concealed Deadly Weapon, and two Counts of Endangering the Welfare of a Child. In this direct appeal, Banks raises one claim of error. He argues that the trial court abused its discretion when it restricted Banks' ability to call witnesses

Page 645

to testify about certain prior acts of the complainant, Paulette Saunders (" Saunders" ), and thereby violated his federal Constitutional right to present a favorable defense.

We have concluded that claim is without merit. Therefore, the judgments of the Superior Court must be affirmed.

Background

In September 2012, Banks and Paulette Saunders (" Saunders" ) had been dating for about a year. Saunders had learned, by going through his cellphone and looking at his texts, emails, pictures and videos, and by looking at his Facebook account, that Banks was having sexual relationships with other women. Saunders was upset and hurt. She contacted one woman in August 2012 and another woman in September 2012.

The weekend ending September 16, 2012, Banks went to a motorcycle event in North Carolina. Over the weekend while he was gone, Saunders repeatedly texted Banks about his infidelities. On the evening of September 16, 2012, Banks returned to Saunders' home in Delaware. He put his motorcycle in the trailer in Saunders' driveway, entered the house, and told Saunders that she did not have to text him so much, saying, " I was coming home and I told you we would discuss whatever we need to discuss when I got home, and all you had to say was you missed me."

Saunders' Testimony

Banks and Saunders then laid on a bed and spoke about Banks' infidelities and what decision he was going to make about their future. Saunders testified that Banks said, " [W]ell I'm here where I want to be." Saunders continued to question Banks about the other women. Saunders testified that Banks got upset about her continued questioning, sat up in bed, pointed his index finger in Saunders' face and said, " You see your face, you see your face? This is why I don't want to come home." Saunders pushed Banks' finger out of her face and told him, " You have to leave. You cannot stay here, you have to go." Banks said he would leave in the morning, and Saunders replied, " No, you're leaving and you're going to leave now."

According to Saunders, Banks became enraged, grabbed a knife off the waistband of his pants and pointed the knife at Saunders. Saunders was very frightened, jumped out of bed and said, " Oh, what you going to do, are you going to stab me now?" According to Saunders, Banks put the knife away and said, " [F]. . . you, bitch." Saunders walked to the dresser to get some shorts to put on instead of her nightgown.

Saunders testified that when she stood up from putting on her shorts, Banks punched her in the forehead with a closed fist so hard that she fell into the TV and then into the dresser. According to Saunders, Banks continued to hit her, and she curled up so Banks could not hit her face. Then Banks took one hand, pulled her head up, and punched her several times in the face with his other hand.

Saunders testified that she " was hollering, 'Get of me, get off me.' And I was hollering for my kids for help. . . ." Saunders' oldest son, then 13 years old, came into the room. He saw Banks hitting Saunders while she was trying to cover her face. Saunders' oldest son asked Banks " what the f. . . are you doing to my mom?" Banks stopped hitting Saunders and left the room. With two hands, Banks pushed Saunders' youngest son, who testified he had also heard Saunders screaming for help. Banks then went out the front door, drove his truck down the street, then

Page 646

drove back and parked across the street from the house until ...


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