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State v. Hand

Superior Court of Delaware, Kent

January 27, 2015

STATE OF DELAWARE,
v.
WILLIS C. HAND, JR., Defendant.

Submitted: December 2, 2014

Upon the State's Motion in Limine to Exclude the Testimony of Susan Schmidhauser. Granted.

Lindsay A. Taylor, Esquire, Department of Justice, Dover, Delaware; attorney for the State of Delaware.

James E. Liguori, Esquire of Liguori & Morris, Dover, Delaware; attorney for the Defendant.

ORDER

Hon. William L. Witham, Jr. Resident Judge

Before the Court is the State's Motion In Limine to exclude two letters sent by the Delaware Attorney General's office to defense counsel regarding the case at bar as well as to prevent the testimony of Deputy Attorney General Susan Schmidhauser concerning her knowledge regarding the drugs seized in this case in order to aid in establishing the chain of custody. The motion is granted.

FACTS AND PROCEDURE

Willis C. Hand, Jr. (hereinafter "Defendant") was stopped for the traffic violation of not wearing his seatbelt and was found in possession of a glass pipe that is frequently used for marijuana use. During the stop the Defendant stuffed a baggie containing what was thought to be marijuana in his mouth, and ran towards a field. The Defendant was detained and an inventory search of his truck revealed two semiautomatic shotguns.

The Defendant was arrested on January 31, 2014 for the following crimes: Possession of a Firearm by a Person Prohibited, Tampering with Physical Evidence, Resisting Arrest, Possession of Marijuana, and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia. The Defendant was indicted on all charges except for the Tampering with Physical Evidence, which was nolle prossed by the State of Delaware.

The day prior to Defendant's trial, Defendant's counsel notified the State that he would be calling Susan Schmidhauser, Deputy Attorney General for the State of Delaware (hereinafter "DAG Schmidhauser"), as one of its witnesses. On September 30, 2014, instead of proceeding to trial, the parties had an office conference and the State made an oral Motion in Limine to prevent DAG Schmidhauser's testimony. On September 30th, this Court held an evidentiary hearing to aid in the motion ruling . During the hearing the State called DAG Susan Schmidhauser, Trooper First Class Ryan Wright, and Forensic Chemist Alia Harris.

During the evidentiary hearing, DAG Schmidhauser testified that initially she was assigned the case, and subsequently the case was transferred to Deputy Attorney General Lindsay Taylor in early 2014 so she could gain more trial experience, as she is a newer attorney. While the case was pending, the State became aware of the issues involving the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (hereinafter "OCME").[1]She testified as to her knowledge of the drugs pertinent to the OCME scandal, as well as the drugs relevant to the Defendant's case. Ms. Schmidhauser testified that she never physically touched any of the evidence relevant to the Defendant's case.

DAG Schmidhauser was questioned and testified to letters sent by the State regarding possible Brady violations as a result of the OCME case. She stated that these letters were sent to defendants in "any pending drug matter" regarding a potential Brady violation pursuant to the OCME investigation and their respective cases.[2] Further, DAG Schmidhauser testified that letters were sent to defense counsel in cases where "there was a possibility that the drug evidence went to the Office of the Medical Examiner."[3] The first letter was sent April 3, 2014 (regarding possible Brady violations) to defense counsel.

DAG Schmidhauser testified that her knowledge of the actual drugs in the present case was slim, because she had never spoken with the intake officer prior to the date of the evidentiary hearing. DAG Schmidhauser testified that the drugs were never sent to the OCME, and that she learned this from reading the Defendant's file. She learned of this after the April 3, 2014 letter was sent.

A second letter was sent on April 24, 2014 to defense counsel by the State saying that the drugs in the present case were submitted and tested at the OCME. DAG Schmidhauser testified that the drugs were not sent to the OCME, contrary to the letter, and that she was made aware ...


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