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Bussey v. State

Supreme Court of Delaware

March 31, 2017

TYRONE BUSSEY, Defendant Below-Appellant,
STATE OF DELAWARE, Plaintiff Below-Appellee.

          Submitted: March 15, 2017

         Court Below: Superior Court of the State of Delaware ID No. 1503013837A

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


         On this 31st day of March 2017, upon consideration of the parties' briefs and the record of the case, it appears that:

         (1) Appellant, Tyrone Bussey, appeals from a Superior Court jury verdict finding him guilty of numerous charges stemming from a domestic disturbance. Bussey makes one claim on appeal. He contends that the trial court abused its discretion in denying his motion for judgment of acquittal on the following counts of the indictment: two charges of Aggravating Menacing, two charges of Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony ("PFDCF"), and three counts of Endangering the Welfare of a Child.

         (2) On March 21, 2015, police officers were dispatched to 410 West 7th Street, Laurel, Delaware, for a call related to a domestic disturbance. A 911 call from neighbors, Doris Taylor and Tyreshia Taylor, gave law enforcement a description of the incident Doris Taylor resided across the street diagonally from the victim's home. Doris informed police that the victim, Kolanda Shelton, was involved in a physical altercation with a male.

         (3) Shelton spoke to a first responder on the scene and another officer after she was transported to the hospital. On the day of the incident, Shelton was involved in a physical altercation with her boyfriend, Tyrone Bussey. The argument started because Shelton did not have the television repaired. Shelton told the first responder that Bussey punched her in the face and held a gun to her head. He also threatened to kill her. She further stated that when Bussey heard the police coming, he threw the gun and took off running. Shelton said that Bussey retrieved the gun from behind or in the vicinity of the television. Shelton told the officer that she was not aware that there were any weapons in the residence.

         (4) From there, Shelton told her oldest son, Windonald Paul, Jr. ("Paul"), to run to the neighbors for help. At that point, Bussey pointed the gun at Shelton's son and threatened to kill both of them if the police arrived. After Paul exited the residence to get help, Bussey put the gun in his waistband and ordered Shelton outside. Shelton told the officer that she ran out the door in an effort to get away from Bussey, but he grabbed her and threw her down. She believed Bussey pointed the gun at her and threatened to kill her again. Next, Bussey ordered Shelton to go to the backyard of the residence, but Shelton refused. When asked why she refused, Shelton stated that she thought Bussey was going to kill her. From there, Bussey dragged Shelton to the rear of the property. After hearing the police arrive, Bussey threw the gun and ran from the scene.

         (5) As his mother was being transported to the hospital, an officer spoke to Shelton's son, Paul. Paul voluntarily provided a statement to police. He stated that he witnessed his mother and Bussey engaged in a verbal argument. From there, Paul observed Bussey punch his mother in the face and retrieve a gun from behind the television. Paul explained to the officer that his mother told him to leave the house and go get help. He stated that Bussey pointed the gun at him and told him that if the police came Bussey was going to kill him and his mother. Paul told the officer that he ran across the street and told a neighbor to call the police, (6) After arriving on the scene, the police were able to locate a gun in a pot next to the stairs to the backdoor. That evening, Bussey was apprehended by police. He was brought in front of the Justice of Peace and a no-contact order was issued on March 22, 2015. The no-contact order was signed by the defendant. Specifically, the no-contact order prohibited Bussey from having contact with Shelton, Paul, and Shelton's three other children.

         (7) Despite the no-contact order, Bussey made contact with Shelton via the telephone and mail while he was in jail. He used another inmate's state bureau identification number to place the calls to Shelton. There were a "total of 26 phone calls to... Shelton's number from Donald Flower's phone account" between March 21, 2015 and June 21, 2015.[1] During these phone calls, Bussey attempted to tell Shelton what to do in relation to the pending criminal charges against him. "Just make sure you don't come no matter what, you feel me? I might have to take this s--t all the way."[2] He instructed Shelton, "[i]f they call you to trial, just tell them you -just drop it, you feel me? Tell them what you told the lawyer or whatever."[3]

         (8) In a series of phone calls played during the trial, Bussey and Shelton discussed the case. In the first call, Bussey confronted Shelton because he heard that Shelton told the police where to find the gun. Shelton responded that she "didn't even know where [he] set it at."[4] From there, Bussey stated that the police or the State were going to try to scare her and "that she shouldn't pay any mind to that because they can't do s-t."[5]

         (9) In the second call entered into evidence, Bussey told Shelton that "the only evidence [the State] had against him was her and her son Paul's statements about the gun."[6] He asked Shelton to bail him out of jail because he needed to get out of jail to better explain things to Shelton. A synopsis of the other phone calls shows that Shelton set up an appointment with Bussey's attorney to tell him that her son's statement to police was not correct. In the next call, Bussey told Shelton that "she wouldn't get in very much trouble if she changed her story."[7] He again stated that he needed to get out of jail so that he can speak to her. He stated, "[h]ave your ass go in there prepared and know what the f- k you got to do, you feel me?"[8] In that same call, Bussey told Shelton, "[you can't] be charged with perjury because [you weren't] under oath when [you] gave [your] statement to the police."[9]

         (10) In another call where Bussey and Shelton discussed Shelton's upcoming meeting with his attorney, he stated, "[a]bout tomorrow, make sure you go in there and, you feel me, your whole main focus is just, I never had s-t, you feel me? All the other s-t about your son and all that, none of that ever happened."[10] Shelton, in discussing the gun, said, "[a]nd that could be, like, that was my gun and I put it back there fixing to try and plant it on you."[11]

         (11) In a sixth call, Bussey and Shelton discussed her revised statement that she gave to Bussey's attorney. Shelton read Bussey her new statement over the phone. Shelton further told Bussey, "I didn't know what the hell to say. I was just --1 was just, like - - anything to take the gun attention off of you."[12] During the last call played for the jury, Bussey continued to encourage Shelton not to press the charges.

         (12) At trial, both Shelton and Paul's testimony differed from their original statements. Shelton testified that she lied about Bussey's use of a gun in order to get Bussey in trouble for hitting her. She further stated that she accidentally fell and that Bussey "was still walking, pulling me, tugging away from me, and I was just holding him."[13] She denied that once outside of her residence that Bussey hit her or physically dragged her. She stated that she followed Bussey around the house as he walked away.

         (13) Shelton testified that after Bussey left the premises, she went back into her home, retrieved the handgun, came back outside, "tossed the gun and ... ran out towards police."[14] When asked where she got the gun, Shelton stated that she found the gun at Laurel Park and brought it home at an earlier date. She stated that Bussey told her to get rid of the weapon, but she had not done so before this incident. She stated that she planted the gun outside of her home to get Bussey into trouble.

         (14) Paul testified that he did not know why the police came to his residence on the day of the incident. He said that his mother told him to go across the street to call 911. Paul claimed that he was telling the truth when he spoke with officers on the day of the incident, but testified that he did not tell the police that he saw a gun.

          (15) During the trial, Tyreshia and Doris Taylor testified for the State. Tyreshia stated that on the night of the incident, Paul came to her grandmother, Doris', house and said that his mother wanted him to call the police. Doris asked Paul if he was serious, and Paul called to his mother to confirm that she wanted him to call the police. Shelton confirmed she wanted the police called, and Doris called the police. Tyreshia testified that Paul went back to his mom and Shelton made him go back to Doris' house. Next, Tyreshia testified that she observed Shelton arguing with a man and stated that there "was a lot of hand motions and yelling."[15] After that, Tyreshia testified that she saw a man pull out a gun and that he was holding it towards Shelton's face. She also saw the man strike Shelton and drag her around to the back of her residence.

         (16) Doris testified to generally the same information as Tyreshia. She stated that when she asked Paul if he was sure his mother wanted her to call the police, Paul squatted behind a car and called over to his mom to confirm. Doris stated that there is "a big tree sitting there, and he was down in between them where he didn't want to be seen."[16] From there, Doris called 911 while she stayed on the porch. She testified that Tyreshia was calling out her observations and that she relayed the information to the 911 operator. She stated that the next time she looked up, she observed Shelton being dragged to the back of her home. In addition, Doris testified that she ...

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