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Benson v. State

Supreme Court of Delaware

December 1, 2014

SIRRON BENSON, Defendant-Below, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF DELAWARE, Plaintiff-Below, Appellee

Submitted: October 15, 2014.

Case Closed December 17, 2014.

Page 980

Court Below: Superior Court of the State of Delaware, in and for New Castle County. Cr. I.D. 1107007485.

Peter W. Veith, Esquire, Wilmington, Delaware, Attorney for Defendant-Below, Appellant.

Maria T. Knoll, Esquire, Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware, Attorney for Plaintiff-Below, Appellee.

Before HOLLAND, RIDGELY, and VALIHURA, Justices.

OPINION

Page 981

HOLLAND, Justice:

This is an appeal from a final judgment of convictions that was entered by the Superior Court. Following a six-day trial, a jury convicted Sirron Benson (" Benson" ) of Murder First Degree and Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony in connection with the July 3, 2011 shooting death of Braheem Curtis. Benson was sentenced to a term of life imprisonment as to Murder First Degree and twenty years at Level V to be served consecutively as to Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony.

Benson raises two issues in this direct appeal. First, Benson contends that it was plain error for the trial judge not to issue a curative instruction sua sponte when the prosecutor, in his rebuttal summation, stated that Benson's intent to cause death could be inferred from the weapon used to perpetrate the crime. Second, Benson submits that the trial judge committed reversible error by failing to give a cautionary instruction relating to the testimony of an informant witness who was receiving a benefit from the State in exchange for his testimony.

We have concluded that neither of Benson's arguments has merit. Therefore, the judgment of the Superior Court must be affirmed.

Facts[1]

On July 3, 2011, people were congregating outside in the area of Ninth and Kirkwood Streets on the east side of Wilmington. They were conversing with one another and setting off fireworks in anticipation of the upcoming July Fourth holiday. Among those gathered were Benson; decedent Braheem Curtis (" Curtis" ); Donnie Stephens; Barbara Stephens; Shirl Williams; and Shelly Cannon. In the midst of the fireworks being set off, an argument erupted between Benson and Curtis. In the course of the argument, Benson told Curtis to stop with the fireworks or else he would go and " get [his . . .] gun."

Following the argument, Benson, who was wearing blue jeans and a white t-shirt, left the area walking up Ninth Street toward his residence. Benson's argument with Curtis and his departure was observed by numerous bystanders who were also gathered nearby. Shortly after leaving the area, Benson returned, raised his arm and fired a single shot at Curtis causing him to fall to the ground. Benson continued walking toward Curtis and fired a second shot at him while he lay on the ground. After firing the second shot, Benson continued walking up Ninth Street toward Lombard Street where he discarded the weapon.

Robin Unthank, who resides at 810 Lombard Street, reported to police that she observed an individual wearing blue jeans and a white t-shirt run past her residence and throw a black object that appeared to be a gun up onto the roof. Unthank's report came in shortly after the reported shooting of Braheem Curtis. Sergeant Hauk of the Wilmington Police Department responded and recovered a .45 caliber Ruger Blackhawk revolver from the roof of Unthank's residence.

As Benson and Curtis argued, a bystander had called 911 to complain about the fireworks. A patrol unit was dispatched to respond to the fireworks complaint. Immediately after the shooting, a bystander flagged down an officer who was on patrol and reported the shooting at Ninth and Kirkwood. Officer Malloy of ...


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