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State v. Hall

Superior Court of Delaware, Kent

August 3, 2017

QUAHEEM HALL, Defendant.

          Submitted: July 26, 2017


          Jeffrey J.Clark Judge.

         Defendant Quaheem Hall (hereinafter "Mr. Hall") moves to compel disclosure of the identity of a confidential informant. The State opposes the motion. Upon consideration of the written submissions of the parties, the Court finds as follows:

         1. Under Rule 509(a) of the Delaware Rules of Evidence, the State has the privilege to refuse to disclose an informant's identity. However, this privilege is not absolute.[1] In order to overcome this privilege, the defense must show, beyond mere speculation, "that the informer may be able to give testimony [that] would materially aid the defense."[2]

         2. There are four scenarios where disclosure of a confidential informant's identity typically arise:

(1) [t]he informer is used merely to establish probable cause for a search[;]
(2) [t]he informer witnesses the criminal act[;] (3) [t]he informer participates but is not a party to the illegal transaction[; or] (4) [t]he informer is an actual party to the illegal transaction.[3]

         Delaware courts consistently hold that "the privilege afforded under Rule 509 is protected in the first Flowers scenario but not in the fourth. In the second and third scenarios, disclosure of the informer's identity is required only if the trial judge determines that the informer's testimony is material to the defense."[4]

         3. In the event of an adequate prima facie showing, the Court will hold a Flowers hearing to determine whether the State must disclose a confidential informant's identity. However, the Court will not hold such a hearing unless the defense shows "beyond mere speculation, that the confidential informant may be able to give testimony that would materially aid the defense."[5] A defendant is only entitled to a hearing on this matter if he or she is capable of meeting this burden.[6]

         4. Here, Mr. Hall focuses on his alleged entitlement to a Flowers hearing because the confidential informant's information established probable cause to stop and search his vehicle. He argues that the only basis for the vehicle stop was the information provided by this informant. He further argues that information about the confidential informant is critical to determine whether the State had probable cause to stop the vehicle.

         5. In this case, Mr. Hall's motion fails to establish a need for a Flowers hearing on the basis that information provided by a confidential informant established probable cause for a search. This fits squarely within the first scenario described above. Delaware courts recognize that a confidential informant's identity is protected when that person merely establishes probable cause for a search.[7] When confronted with such a scenario, the Court will not hold a Flowers hearing to determine whether the confidential informant's identity is privileged.[8]

         6. While Mr. Hall's motion, in a conclusory manner, also implies that the confidential informant witnessed criminal activity, he recites no factual allegations or support justifying such a conclusion. With regard to the second scenario, a hearing is inappropriate in this case for two reasons. First, in support of this Flowers scenario, Mr. Hall's allegations are limited to stating "[a]s stated in State v. Flowers, under scenarios (1) and (2) as is the case here . . . ." He fails, however, to even allege that the confidential informant was present during any criminal activity, much less the charges at issue in the indictment. Mr. Hall provides no legal authority, and the Court was unable to locate any, where a court found such a motion sufficient to warrant a Flowers hearing.

         7. Second, while generally a court will conduct a Flowers hearing when the defense alleges, beyond mere speculation, the second Flowers scenario, [9] a court is not required to hold such a hearing even under the second Flowers scenario when the defense fails to meet its prima facie burden of demonstrating that compelled disclosure of the confidential informant's identity will materially aid the defense.[10] Here, Mr. Hall's motion provides no information or even a claim that the confidential informant's identity would assist his defense in any way. [11] Namely, he does not allege that the confidential informant will (or even possibly could) provide exculpatory testimony or would otherwise assist in his defense. His motion merely states that "the Court should hold an in camera 'Flowers hearing' to determine whether disclosure would aid the defense." Since Mr. Hall must have first set forth allegations and some justification in his written motion that the evidence will materially aid his case, it is inappropriate for the Court to conduct a Flowers hearing.[12]

         THEREFORE, Mr. Hall's motion for an in camera Flowers hearing is DENIED. His motion to compel the State to produce a complete criminal history and other such ...

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