Submitted: January 14, 2015.
Case Closed February 2, 2015.
Court Below: Superior Court of the State of Delaware in and for New Castle County.
Bernard J. O'Donnell, Esquire, Office of Public Defender, Wilmington, Delaware, for Appellant.
Morgan T. Zurn, Esquire, Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware, for Appellee.
Before STRINE, Chief Justice; RIDGELY and VALIHURA, Justices.
STRINE, Chief Justice:
Derrick Crosby was convicted by a jury of second degree robbery and second degree conspiracy. He was arrested within minutes of the alleged crime, because the robbery was committed against a police informant who had arranged to purchase a gun from co-defendant Rakim Huggins as part of a police sting operation. The police were therefore monitoring the scene in close vicinity. Instead of selling the informant the gun, Huggins and an accomplice robbed the informant at gunpoint. The informant testified that Huggins pulled out a revolver and used his other hand to take $500 from the informant's jacket pocket. The accomplice then opened the driver's seat door, rifled through the informant's pockets, and took his cell phone from the door console.
When the gun purchase did not go as planned, the informant alerted the police with whom he was working and they moved in quickly. About a minute after the robbery took place, police spotted Huggins and Crosby walking together. Huggins was arrested and the informant identified him as one of his assailants. Crosby was also arrested promptly, and had in his possession the informant's cell phone. But the informant could not make a positive identification that Crosby was Huggins' accomplice in committing the robbery.
In this appeal, Crosby argues that his counsel was unfairly limited in presenting a closing argument on his behalf. Specifically, Crosby argues that the Superior Court erred by sustaining an objection by the State to any argument that Crosby could have obtained the informant's cell phone from Huggins' accomplice. The Superior Court reasoned that there was no evidence in the record that supported a rational inference that, in the limited time between when the informant was robbed and when Crosby was arrested, Huggins' accomplice turned over the cell phone to Crosby and then left the scene. But the Superior Court did allow Crosby's attorney to argue that " there's a fair inference that someone other than Mr. Crosby committed this robbery and that there were ways in which [Crosby] came into possession of the cell phone after the incident." 
We review a trial judge's determination of the proper bounds of closing arguments for abuse of discretion. Although a trial court should be cautious about restricting defense counsel's ability to argue that the State has not ruled out possible scenarios beyond a reasonable doubt, the trial judge has the discretion to restrict arguments that have no rational basis in the evidentiary record. In this case, there was no evidence to suggest that Huggins' accomplice passed the informant's cell phone to Crosby in the brief period between when the informant was robbed and when Crosby was arrested (which may have been less than one minute in total). In light of the record, the Superior Court did not abuse its discretion
in limiting the defense attorney's closing argument in the specific way it did, and leaving the defense the opportunity, as was taken, to make the more general argument that there were many ways in which Crosby could have come into possession of the informant's cell phone. Furthermore, the Superior Court permitted the defense to argue that Crosby was not the robber and to suggest, by use of ...