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Stephen Service v. State

Supreme Court of Delaware

March 17, 2015

STEPHEN SERVICE, Defendant Below-Appellant,
v.
STATE OF DELAWARE, Plaintiff Below-Appellee.

Submitted: February 11, 2015.

Court Below: Superior Court of the State of Delaware in and for New Castle County, No. 1302012587.

Before STRINE, Chief Justice, HOLLAND, and VAUGHN, Justices.

ORDER

James T. Vaughn Jr. Justice.

On this 17th day of March 2015, it appears to the Court that:

(1) Defendant-Below/Appellant Stephen Service appeals from a Superior Court order denying his motion to exclude drug test results from evidence at trial. He contends that the State's production of the results was untimely under the Superior Court's scheduling order. He further contends that his right to a speedy trial under the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution was violated and that the indictment should have been dismissed under Superior Court Criminal Rule 48(b). We find that the Superior Court acted within its discretion in denying Service's motion to exclude the test results, and that Service has failed to show sufficient prejudice resulting from the delay between his arrest and trial. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the Superior Court.

(2) On February 27, 2013, Service was arrested for selling drugs to undercover police officers. On May 28, 2013, Service was indicted on, inter alia, multiple counts of drug dealing (the "Drug Dealing Case"). At the time he was indicted on the drug offenses, he also had charges pending against him from an unrelated firearms offense (the "Firearms Case"). Service was incarcerated while awaiting trial in both the Drug Dealing Case and the Firearms Case. The Superior Court scheduled the Drug Dealing Case for final case review on October 21, 2013, and trial on October 29, 2013.

(3) On October 18, 2013, Service requested that his final case review and trial date in the Drug Dealing Case be rescheduled because a motion to suppress remained pending. The trial court granted Service's request and issued a new scheduling order setting final case review for December 2, 2013, and trial for December 10, 2013. The new scheduling order informed the parties that if the Medical Examiner's reports were not filed by the Friday before the final case review, the drug test results would be inadmissible at trial. On December 2, 2013, the trial court performed a final case review in the Drug Dealing Case. On December 4, 2013, the State requested that the Drug Dealing Case trial be moved to December 17, 2013, and that the Firearms Case trial, which was scheduled for December 17, be moved to December 10. The trial court granted the State's request.

(4) On December 12, 2013, the State provided Service with the laboratory reports for the drug testing at issue in this appeal. On the morning of December 17, 2013, the date trial was set to commence on the Drug Dealing Case, the State offered Service a plea agreement. That same morning, Service filed a motion to exclude the laboratory reports as untimely under the trial court's scheduling order. The State conceded that the laboratory reports were not produced in a timely manner, but argued that Service was not prejudiced because he had notice that forensic testing was necessary before the drugs could be admitted and that a medical examiner was going to testify at trial.

(5) As an alternative to exclusion, the State requested that the trial court grant a continuance to allow Service additional time to prepare his defense and consider the State's plea offer. The State emphasized that, even if the laboratory reports were excluded, Service would remain incarcerated on the Firearms Case. In response, Service's counsel took the position that the laboratory reports should be excluded as untimely, but if exclusion was not granted, she would need a continuance in order to analyze the reports and prepare for trial. She also informed the trial court that Service did not want a continuance, and wished to proceed immediately to trial. After hearing the parties' arguments, the Superior Court reserved decision on the motion to exclude the laboratory reports and granted the continuance.[1]

(6) On January 6, 2014, Service rejected the State's plea offer. Three days later, Service's counsel filed a motion to withdraw. The trial court granted the motion on January 31, 2014, and counsel from the Public Defender's office was appointed to represent Service.

(7) On February 17, 2014, Service was reindicted, and the Drug Dealing Case and the Firearms Case, which had not yet gone to trial, were consolidated. On February 24, 2014, the trial court issued a scheduling order setting trial for May 13, 2014. On April 4, 2014, the trial court denied Service's motion to exclude the drug test results, [2] and granted a motion filed by Service to sever the charges stemming from the Firearms Case. On the eve of the Drug Dealing Case trial, Service filed a motion to dismiss the indictment on the grounds that his right to a speedy trial had been violated. The trial court denied Service's motion, reasoning that (1) the length of the delay was not extensive, (2) most of the delays were at the defendant's request (3) the defendant had consented to, or at least concurred with the court's reasoning regarding the December 17, 2013 continuance, and (4) the delay had benefitted the defendant.

(8) A jury trial in the Drug Dealing Case was held on May 13 and 14, 2014. The jury found Service guilty of three counts of Drug Dealing. He was sentenced to four years of imprisonment followed by descending levels of probation. This appeal followed.

(9) "We review a trial judge's application of the Superior Court Rules relating to discovery for an abuse of discretion."[3] "'When an act of judicial discretion is under review the reviewing court may not substitute its own notions of what is right for those of the trial judge, if his [or her] judgment was based on conscience and reason, as opposed to capriciousness or arbitrariness.'"[4] "The alleged denial of the constitutional right to a speedy trial is a question of law, which we review de novo."[5]A trial ...


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