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Brooks v. State

Supreme Court of Delaware

February 24, 2015

WARREN A. BROOKS, Defendant-Below, Appellant,
STATE OF DELAWARE, Plaintiff-Below, Appellee.

Submitted: February 18, 2015

Court Below-Superior Court of the State of Delaware, in and for Kent County, Delaware CA. No. 1305019721

Before HOLLAND, VALfflURA, and VAUGHN, Justices.


This 24 day of February 2015, it appears to the Court that:

(1) The defendant below-appellant, Warren A. Brooks, ("Brooks"), was indicted on one count of Possession of a Firearm or Firearm Ammunition by a Person Prohibited, one count of Possession of a Deadly Weapon (Firearm) by a Person Prohibited, one count of Carrying a Concealed Deadly Weapon, one count of Conspiracy Second Degree, and one count of Resisting Arrest. Prior to trial, it was stipulated by all parties that Brooks and his co-defendants were all prohibited from possessing firearms at the time of their arrest. The jury found Brooks guilty of all charges. The jury did not reach a unanimous verdict as to Brooks' co-defendants, Derrell Snipes ("Snipes") and Trevor Jenkins ("Jenkins"). Brooks was sentenced to be incarcerated for ten years and nine months at Level V followed by probation.

(2) Brooks raises four claims of error in this direct appeal. First, Brooks argues that the trial court denied his federal Constitutional rights to due process and to be free from double jeopardy when it denied his motion for a judgment of acquittal and sent the indictment to the jury without clarifying which alleged acts were being charged in each of the individual counts. Second, Brooks contends that the prosecutor's continued questioning and testimonial references to the police viewing an allegedly much clearer video at the police station then the DVD presented as evidence to the jury amounted to improper vouching. Third, Brooks submits that the prosecutor's improper statements at trial and during the State's closing were repetitive errors central to the State's case and cast doubt on the integrity of the judicial process. Finally, Brooks argues that, even if this Court were to conclude that each individual error, was harmless, the cumulative impact of the errors requires reversal. We have concluded that all of Brooks' claims are without merit. Therefore, the judgment of the Superior Court must be affirmed.

(3) On the early morning of May 24, 2013, Dover Police Department Patrolman First Class (PFC) John Michael Willson was on patrol on South New Street, "a high-crime, high-drug area" in the City of Dover.[1] Around 2 a.m., PFC Willson observed a large, very animated group of 10 to 15 people in the vicinity of the Colonial Apartments at 132 South New Street. Two or three individuals were throwing their hands up in the air, and Willson saw one person being restrained by someone. Sensing there might be a potential problem, Willson reported the situation by radio to Sergeant David Spicer, his supervisor. Since Willson was alone, Spicer told Willson to return to the Dover Police station, pick up other officers, and formulate a plan.

(4) Pursuant to Spicer's order, Willson radioed five other Dover Police Officers on his shift (Master Corporal Brian Sherwood, PFC Joseph Bauer, and Patrolmen Krough, Wood, and Schmidt), and requested that they meet at the Dover Police station. Once assembled at the station dispatch center, Sergeant Spicer and the six Dover Police officers were able to observe the group of civilians assembled on South New Street by means of a remote surveillance camera located behind Kunkel's Auto Supply.

(5) The City of Dover has multiple cameras that allow the police to monitor activity on downtown streets. The Dover downtown surveillance cameras may be moved by a police dispatcher and there is a zoom feature for closer viewing of a particular location. At the Dover Police station, the images detected by the remote surveillance cameras may be viewed live on two 72" High Definition screens in the-station dispatch area. In addition, the cameras have a recording system.

(6) At the Dover Police Station, one of the remote surveillance cameras was pointed directly at 132 South New Street at 2:22 a.m. on May 24, 2013. At that time it was raining. In the area of the Colonial Apartments, there was an alley between that South New Street location and South Queen Street. There was also a wrought iron gate and fence in the alley.

(7) The assembled Dover Police officers watched the activities at the 132 South New Street location on the Station's 72" screens. According to Sergeant Spicer, it appeared that the group on South New Street was about to fight. While watching the South New Street activity on the remote surveillance camera, the Dover Police officers observed Jenkins walk to a silver Malibu automobile parked on South New Street, retrieve an object from the driver's compartment, place the object in his right rear pocket, return, and jump over a fence in the alley.

(8) While still observing the remote surveillance camera broadcast at the station, the police officers then saw Brooks walk to the same silver car, open the car trunk, remove a long object covered with clothing (jeans) or cloth, and walk to the alleyway fence that Jenkins had previously jumped. At the alleyway, Brooks set the concealed object to the side of the fence where it was retrieved by Snipes.

(9) Viewing this activity remotely at the station, the assembled police officers suspected that Jenkins and Brooks had both retrieved firearms from the silver car. Spicer thought the long object covered with clothing that Brooks removed from the car trunk was a long gun (a rifle or shotgun). Officer Sherwood also thought the concealed object Brooks obtained might be a "chopper, " or sawed-off shotgun.

(10) Sergeant Spicer believed that "something was about to happen, '' and he feared that "there was going to be a shooting." Spicer ordered Willson and Sherwood to go to New Street and the other four officers ...

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