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Coverdale v. State

Supreme Court of Delaware

May 12, 2015

JOEQWELL COVERDALE, Defendant Below-Appellant,
STATE OF DELAWARE, Plaintiff Below-Appellee

Submitted: April 29, 2015.

Case Closed May 28, 2015.

Editorial Note:

This decision has been designated as "Table of Decisions Without Published Opinions." in the Atlantic Reporter.

Court Below: Superior Court of the State of Delaware in and for New Castle County. No. 1212005871.

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


James T. Vaughn, Jr., Justice.

On this 12th day of May 2015, it appears to the Court that:

(1) Defendant-below/Appellant Joeqwell Coverdale appeals from a Superior Court jury conviction of three counts of Robbery First Degree, Robbery Second Degree, four counts of Possession of a Firearm during the Commission of a Felony (" PFDCF" ), and Conspiracy Second Degree. Coverdale raises one claim on appeal. He contends that the Superior Court erred when it denied his motion for a mistrial after Officer John Mitchell, a witness for the State, testified in court that he realized the victims of the robbery were describing Coverdale because of the officer's past experiences with him. We find no merit to Coverdale's claim and affirm.

(2) On December 9, 2012, Mohammed Kayyali, his brother Abdullah Kayyali, Emilio Laury, and Annette Torregrossa were driving around in Mohammed's car and smoking marijuana. After running out of marijuana, they drove to the Fenwick Apartments in Elsmere, Delaware to purchase more marijuana from a dealer with whom Laury was acquainted. Once there, Laury exited the vehicle and walked behind one of the apartment buildings to make the purchase. While the occupants of the vehicle were waiting for Laury to return, two men approached the car and robbed them at gunpoint. One man, later identified as Coverdale, stood next to the driver's door, where Mohammed was sitting, and pointed a gun at Mohammed's head. The other man, later identified as Gordon Potter, went to the rear of the vehicle and robbed the other passengers.

(3) The robbers took wallets, money, and cell phones from the victims, as well as the keys to the vehicle, jewelry from Torregrossa, and the newly purchased marijuana from Laury when he returned to the car. After searching the trunk of the car for more valuables, the gunman gave the keys back to Mohammed and told him to leave the area. Mohammed asked the gunman if he could have his wallet back, and the gunman complied. Before returning the wallet, however, the gunman read the address on Mohammed's driver's license and said " I know where you live at, I seen your address and I know exactly where that address is." [1] He then threatened Mohammed by stating, " [D]on't tell the cops or we'll get you." [2]

(4) After leaving the Fenwick Apartments and arriving at Abdullah's house, the victims spotted Officer Mitchell of the Elsmere Police Department and flagged him down. Officer Mitchell interviewed the victims in Abdullah's house, then again at the police station. The victims described the gunman as a short black male, with a goatee, sideburns, and light brown eyes. Based on this description, Officer Mitchell composed two photographic line-ups. One contained a photograph of Coverdale, and the other contained a photograph of Potter. Mohammed identified both Coverdale and Potter from the line-ups. Abdullah and Laury also identified Coverdale from the line-up, but were unable to identify Potter.

(5) Coverdale was arrested on the day of the robbery. A subsequent search of his apartment uncovered the four cell phones stolen from the victims. Prior to Coverdale's trial, Potter was also arrested and pled guilty to Robbery First Degree, Robbery Second Degree, and Conspiracy Second Degree. At Coverdale's trial, Potter testified that he, Coverdale, and Coverdale's brother Joseph robbed the victims at the Fenwick Apartments. Potter stated that he provided Coverdale with a gun at his request, and admitted that he robbed the passengers sitting in the backseat of the vehicle while Coverdale held the gun to Mohammed's head. He further testified that he saw Coverdale rob Mohammed, and that Joseph acted as lookout for the crime, keeping watch nearby.

(6) Officer Mitchell also testified at trial regarding his investigation of the robbery. On direct examination, the following exchange took place ...

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