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Wilson v. State

Supreme Court of Delaware

April 27, 2017

JAMES A. WILSON, Defendant Below-Appellant,
v.
STATE OF DELAWARE, Plaintiff Below-Appellee,

          Submitted: February 16, 2017

         Court Below: Superior Court of the State of Delaware Cr. ID 1304003168

          Before VALIHURA, VAUGHN, and SEITZ, Justices.

          ORDER

         This 27th day of April 2017, upon consideration of the appellant's brief filed under Supreme Court Rule 26(c), his attorney's motion to withdraw, and the State's response thereto, it appears to the Court that:

         (1) In March 2016, a Superior Court jury convicted the defendant-appellant, James A. Wilson, of one count each of Assault in the Second Degree and Disregarding a Police Officer's Signal, and three motor vehicle offenses. The jury acquitted Wilson of Possession of a Deadly Weapon during the Commission of a Felony ("PDWCF"). On September 13, 2016, after a presentence investigation and upon the State's motion, the Superior Court declared Wilson to be a habitual offender and sentenced him to a total period of seven years at Level V incarceration, followed by one year of probation. This is Wilson's direct appeal.

         (2) Wilson's counsel has filed a brief and a motion to withdraw under Supreme Court Rule 26(c). Counsel asserts that, based upon a complete and careful examination of the record, there are no arguably appealable issues. By letter, counsel informed Wilson of the provisions of Rule 26(c) and gave him a copy of the motion to withdraw and the accompanying brief and appendix. Wilson also was informed of his right to supplement his attorney's presentation. Wilson has raised five issues for the Court's consideration. The State has responded to the Rule 26(c) brief and Wilson's points and has moved to affirm the Superior Court's judgment.

         (3) The trial record fairly reflects that, on April 4, 2013, Dover police had a warrant to search a business called Many Things located on West Loockerman Street in Dover. The warrant also authorized police to search the persons of James Wilson and Leonard Ingram, the business' owners. When police arrived, neither man was in the building. One of the detectives left the building and recognized Wilson standing nearby on the sidewalk next to a car. The detective directed nearby back-up officers to detain Wilson. The back-up officers, who were in full tactical uniform with the word "POLICE" written on the front and back, pulled their vehicle in front of Wilson's vehicle. They exited their vehicle with their weapons drawn, identified themselves as police officers, and ordered Wilson to stop. Wilson did not stop. Instead, he pulled away from the officers in reverse, backed up his car into a parking lot and then drove away from the officers in the opposite direction. One block later, Wilson ran a red light and broadsided a pick-up truck, injuring the driver.

         (4) At the close of the State's evidence, Wilson's counsel filed a motion for a judgment of acquittal, which the Superior Court denied. Wilson then testified at trial that he fled when he saw officers approaching him with guns drawn because he thought they were going to shoot him. His panic led to the car accident, but he asserted that he never intended to assault anyone. The jury convicted Wilson of second degree assault and disregarding an officer's signal, as well as related traffic offenses, but acquitted him of PDWCF.

         (5) Wilson raises five issues in response to his counsel's Rule 26(c) brief on appeal. First, he contends that his arrest was illegal because the search warrant did not authorize his seizure outside of the Many Things building. Second, Wilson asserts that the evidence was insufficient to prove second degree assault because the jury acquitted him of PDWCF. Third, he contends that the evidence was insufficient to prove a felony charge of disregarding an officer's signal. Fourth, he argues that the evidence was insufficient to prove second degree assault because he lacked the requisite state of mind. Finally, he contends that his trial counsel was ineffective. Because this Court will not consider a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel for the first time on direct appeal, [1] we only address Wilson's first four claims.

         (6) The standard and scope of review applicable to the consideration of defense counsel's motion to withdraw and an accompanying brief under Rule 26(c) is twofold: (a) the Court must be satisfied that defense counsel has made a conscientious examination of the record and the law for claims that could arguably support the appeal; and (b) the Court must conduct its own review of the record in order to determine whether the appeal is so totally devoid of at least arguably appealable issues that it can be decided without an adversary presentation.[2]

         (7) Wilson's first claim on appeal is that his arrest was illegal because the search warrant did not authorize the police to seize him outside of the Many Things building. Wilson raised this issue in a pretrial motion to dismiss the indictment.[3] The Superior Court held a hearing on the motion on March 7, 2016. Wilson argued that the search warrant was not an arrest warrant and that the police were not authorized to seize or search him outside of the premises authorized to be searched. The Superior Court denied Wilson's motion, holding that the search warrant specifically authorized the search of Wilson's person and did not require that the search of his person take place inside the Many Things building. Thus, the police were authorized under the warrant to seize Wilson outside of the premises of Many Things for the purposes of executing the search warrant.

         (8) Generally, we review a trial court's denial of a motion to dismiss counts of an indictment for abuse of discretion.[4] We review de novo a trial court's legal conclusions and a defendant's claim of an infringement of a constitutional right."[5] If the denial of the pretrial motion is based upon the trial court's factual findings, we will uphold those findings if they are supported by sufficient evidence and are not clearly erroneous.[6]

         (9) In the present case, Wilson does not challenge the validity of the warrant itself. Instead, he argues that the police exceeded the scope of the warrant. Under 11 Del. C. § 2305, a warrant may be issued to "authorize the search of any person, house, building, conveyance, place or other things...."[7]The warrant in this case explicitly authorized the search of Wilson's person, as well as the Many Things building. Contrary to his argument, the scope of the warrant did not restrict the execution of the search of Wilson's person to the premises of Many Things. Thus, the police were authorized to seize Wilson outside of the Many Things building for purposes of executing the valid search warrant of his person. We find no abuse of the Superior Court's discretion in denying Wilson's pretrial motion in this case.

         (10) Wilson's remaining three claims all challenge the sufficiency of the evidence to support his convictions. As to his second degree assault conviction, Wilson argues that the evidence was insufficient to convict him because the State failed to prove that he acted intentionally and because the jury acquitted him of PDWCF. Under the rule of jury lenity, however, this Court may uphold a conviction that ...


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