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Brown v. State

Supreme Court of Delaware

June 17, 2015

ANZARA BROWN, Defendant Below/Appellant,
STATE OF DELAWARE, Plaintiff Below/Appellee

Submitted June 17, 2015

Case Closed July 6, 2015.

Page 569

Court Below: Superior Court of the State of Delaware, in and for Kent County. Criminal ID No. 54840995.


Sandra W. Dean, Esquire, Camden, Delaware, for Appellant.

Kathryn J. Garrison, Deputy Attorney General, Department of Justice, Georgetown, Delaware, for Appellee.

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


Page 570

STRINE, Chief Justice.


Anzara Brown was convicted on various charges of drug dealing and drug possession following a jury trial in the Superior Court. In his direct appeal to this Court, Brown challenged three decisions of the Superior Court regarding the admissibility of certain evidence used against him at trial. Because we find that the Superior Court acted within its discretion to deny Brown's suppression motions and admit the evidence, we affirm his judgment of convictions.

At oral argument on Brown's appeal to this Court, his counsel informed the Court for the first time that James Woodson, the courier for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (" OCME" ) who handled the drug evidence seized from Brown following his arrest, had been indicted for alleged improprieties, including the theft of drug evidence for personal use. Woodson's indictment resulted from a larger investigation into evidence mishandling at OCME. This Court stayed Brown's appeal and remanded the case to permit him to file a motion for a new trial, given the new evidence of Woodson's alleged misconduct. On remand, the Superior Court denied Brown's motion, finding that the newly discovered facts would probably not have changed the results in his case. The matter was then returned from remand, and the parties filed supplemental briefs.

We conclude that the Superior Court was within its discretion to deny Brown's motion for a new trial. Although sloppy evidence-handling practices and potentially worse behavior by OCME employees is disappointing and regrettable, there is no rational basis to infer that any sloppiness or other improprieties at OCME resulted in any injustice to Brown. Brown admits that he possessed cocaine in more than sufficient amount to justify his convictions, and there was overwhelming evidence of his guilt separate from the drugs seized from him. Accordingly, we affirm the Superior

Page 571

Court's denial of his motion for a new trial.


Brown's arrest resulted from an extensive police investigation into an alleged drug trafficking syndicate run by Galen Brooks.[2] In addition to using undercover purchasers and confidential informants, the police obtained a warrant to wiretap Brooks' cell phones, and conducted video surveillance of Brooks' house and physical surveillance of the entrance to his neighborhood. On May 31, 2012, officers listened to four calls in which Brooks and an unknown man arranged for the man to buy cocaine from Brooks. In the last call, which took place at 5:35 p.m., the man told Brooks that he would be at Brooks' house in approximately seven minutes to pick up the drugs. The officers listening to the telephone conversations, including Sergeant Lance Skinner of the Delaware State Police, relayed that information to the officers conducting surveillance. Sergeant Skinner then travelled to the area near Brooks' house to wait for the unknown man.

At the same time, Detective Jordan Miller of the Dover Police Department was conducting video surveillance of Brooks' house. Detective Miller watched another man, John Price, leave Brooks' home at 5:48 p.m.[3] The police were familiar with Price's voice and telephone number from the investigation and believed that Price was not the unknown man from the four telephone calls. Three minutes after Price left, or roughly sixteen minutes after the fourth phone call, an unknown woman and a man later identified as Anzara Brown arrived at Brooks' home. Brooks came out to meet them and they went around the side of the house, out of view of the camera. Approximately five minutes later, Brown and the woman left Brooks' home. Brooks himself left a minute later, indicating to the police that he was no longer waiting for the unknown man from the telephone call to arrive. Detective Miller informed the other officers involved with the investigation.

Sergeant Skinner followed Brown's vehicle in his patrol car for two to three miles after it left Brooks' house. Sergeant Skinner then stopped the vehicle and asked Brown to step outside on the pretext that there was a problem with his registration. Sergeant Skinner testified at Brown's trial that he recognized Brown's voice from the telephone calls earlier that day.[4] When Brown stepped out of his vehicle, Sergeant Skinner arrested him. He then conducted a pat-down search of Brown and found what he described as two bags of cocaine contained in a pouch in Brown's front pocket. One of the bags contained three smaller bags, for a total of five bags. Sergeant Skinner transported the drugs to the police station, where two other officers, Sergeant Jeremiah Lloyd and Master Corporal Jeffrey Lavere, field-tested and weighed the contents and sealed the bags to transport to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. According to Sergeant Skinner's testimony at trial, three of the bags contained crack, and one of the bags

Page 572

contained powder cocaine.[5] There was also a small amount of powder cocaine in the bag that contained the three smaller bags. The Delaware State Police Evidence Report indicated that the bags together contained approximately 1.2 grams of powder and 20 grams of crack cocaine.[6]

Sergeant Skinner searched Brown again at the police station and found a small bag of marijuana and a pair of brass knuckles in Brown's pocket. In a statement to the police, Brown admitted that he had an ounce of cocaine (approximately 28 grams), and that he intended to sell it. He gave the police his cell phone number, which matched the one captured on the wiretap. After he was released, Brown was also recorded on a wiretap speaking on the phone with Brooks, describing his arrest and the seizure of the drugs, and assuring Brooks that he would not " fall short." [7]

Ultimately, fourteen defendants were indicted for their involvement in the drug syndicate, including Brooks and Brown.[8] Brown moved to sever his case from the other defendants, which the Superior Court granted. Brown also filed two pre-trial motions, one to suppress the evidence seized from him following his arrest and another to ...

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