Nicholas R. Wynn, Esquire, Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware – Attorney for the State.
T. Andrew Rosen, Esquire, Office of the Public Defender, Wilmington, Delaware – Attorney for the Defendant.
John A. Parkins, Jr. Superior Court Judge.
Defendant was found guilty of felony theft by a jury. She was sentenced to two years at Level 5 suspended immediately for one year at Level 2 probation. Now before the court is her timely renewed motion for judgment of acquittal. This is the court's order resolving that motion.
1. The Supreme Court recently had occasion in Lum v. State to remind trial judges that they may not defer ruling on motions for judgment of acquittal made at the close of the State's case (as opposed to motions made at the close of the evidence). This is of considerable significance since courts are limited to consideration of only the evidence in State's case-in-chief when the motion is made at the close of the State's case. When the motion is made at the close of all the evidence the trial court is free to consider all of the evidence, including any offered by the defendant, when ruling on the motion.
2. In this case it is unclear whether Defendant's motion was made at the close of the State's case or at the close of all of the evidence. In Lum the Supreme Court held that a trial judge's deferral of a ruling on a motion for judgment of acquittal is harmless error if, upon further review, the evidence offered during the State's case-in-chief justified denial of that motion. According to the Lum court, "[b]ecause the evidence presented in the State's case-in-chief was clearly sufficient to sustain his conviction without reference to the additional evidence of Lum's knowledge that came in during his own case . . . the Superior Court's failure to rule on the motion at the end of the State's case-in-chief and before the defense case commenced was harmless." In light of the current uncertainty concerning the timing of Defendant's motion at trial, the court will err on the side of caution and will assume that it was made at the close of the State's case. It will therefore only consider the evidence offered during that case-in-chief.
2. The standard for granting a judgment of acquittal is a familiar one: "whether any rational trier of fact, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the State, could find a defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of all the elements of the crime."
3. In this case Defendant is charged with having her automobile insurance carrier electronically deduct her monthly premium payment from the victim's account. The Defendant and the victim were not acquainted, and the victim testified he never authorized payment of Defendant's insurance premiums from his account.
4. In her motion Defendant contends that there was no evidence that Defendant provided her insurance carrier with the victim's bank routing number and account.
5. During its case-in-chief the State played for the jury an audio recording of a telephone conversation between Defendant and an employee of her insurance carrier. During that telephone conversation Defendant told the insurance employee that she wished to re-start automatic deductions of her insurance premiums from her checking account. The employee asked Defendant for her bank routing number and checking account number, whereupon Defendant replied she did not remember them. The insurance carrier's employee then read the routing number and account number it had on file, which were the numbers associated with the victim's account. After hearing that information Defendant authorized the insurance carrier to deduct the premiums from that account.
6. When viewed in the light most favorable to the State a rational jury could conclude that Defendant authorized the insurance company to deduct her premium payments from ...