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Payne v. State

Supreme Court of Delaware

March 30, 2015

ALONZO J. PAYNE, Defendant Below, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF DELAWARE, Plaintiff Below, Appellee.

Submitted: March 4, 2015

Court Below: Superior Court of the State of Delaware, in and for Sussex County, Cr. I.D. No. 1308012898A

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

ORDER

Karen L. Valihura Justice

This 30th day of March 2015, upon consideration of the parties' briefs and the record below, it appears to the Court that:

(1) Defendant below, Alonzo Payne ("Payne"), argues on appeal that, because a witness informed the jury of the defendant's previous incarceration, a mistrial should have been granted in his trial for First Degree Robbery, Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony, and Tampering with Physical Evidence. We disagree, and for the reasons stated herein, we AFFIRM the judgment below.

(2) On August 16, 2013, Darryl Hutt ("Hutt") left work and cashed his weekly paycheck of $280 at the Service General. Hutt then walked to the apartment of Ashley Drummond ("Ashley") to find his cousin Shawn Smith ("Smith"). When Hutt arrived at the apartment, Smith was not there, but Ashley's brother Yahi Drummond ("Yahi"), her cousin Teuntay Drummond ("Teuntay"), and Payne were there. Shortly after Smith arrived, Hutt and Smith left the apartment.

(3) Smith and Ashley had been arguing throughout the day and continued to argue over the phone after Smith left the apartment. Yahi overheard the argument and called Smith. During that conversation, Smith told Yahi that he and Hutt were going to the Service General to cash Smith's paycheck. Once they arrived, Smith went inside, and Hutt remained in the car to count his money. A black Cadillac pulled into a nearby parking spot. Three males got out and approached Hutt's window. Hutt testified that he was "struck" and then felt a "snatch on [his] leg, " after which his money was gone. When Hutt looked up, he noticed that a man wearing a white shirt and red shorts had a gun pointed at him.

(4) Smith exited the Service General while the three men were walking back to the Cadillac. Smith recognized the three men as Payne, Teuntay, and Yahi. Smith testified that Payne was wearing a white shirt and red shorts. Hutt told Smith that the three men had just robbed him. Smith approached Payne and asked for the money back. Payne refused, and the three men drove off in the Cadillac. Later, Smith and Hutt went back to Ashley's apartment to ask for the money back, but Payne refused again.

(5) Smith and Hutt reported the incident to the Georgetown Police Department. In addition to describing Payne's white shirt and red shorts, Hutt reported that, of the money stolen, one of the twenty-dollar bills and one of the ten-dollar bills were torn. The police responded immediately. Upon arriving at Ashley's apartment complex, officers identified Payne by his clothing. One of the officers drew his weapon and ordered everyone to put their hands up. Payne ran into Ashley's apartment. About thirty seconds to a minute later, Payne reappeared at the front door and then exited the apartment. One of the officers then took Payne into custody. When the police searched Ashley's apartment, they found a black revolver under a couch. Tamara Midgette ("Midgette"), who was inside Ashley's apartment during the arrest, testified that Payne ran into the apartment, hid something under the couch, and gave her $179.[1] The money the officers recovered from Midgette included a twenty-dollar bill and a ten-dollar bill with tears matching those Hutt described.

(6) Payne argues that the trial court should have declared a mistrial because a witness informed the jury of Payne's previous incarceration during the following exchange between defense counsel and Smith:

Q: But you've known Yahi a lot longer than Alonzo Payne, correct?
A: Yes.
Q: And you're much closer with Yahi than you are with Alonzo ...

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