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State v. Hamilton

Superior Court of Delaware, Kent

September 7, 2017

STATE OF DELAWARE,
v.
CORTEZ HAMILTON, Defendant.

          ORDER

          Resident Judge.

         The issue before the Court is whether to grant Defendant's Motions to File Out of Time and accept Defendant's untimely filed Motions to Suppress. In addition, this is the Court's decision with respect to granting Defendant's Motion for Continuance of the Trial. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motions are GRANTED.

         FACTS

         On January 10, 2015, Keisha Hamilton was reported missing by her sister. The sister was concerned because she was unable to contact Keisha, or her husband, Cortez Hamilton ("Defendant"), after receiving "alarming messages" from Keisha the night before. The sister informed police that Keisha told her that the Defendant was acting strangely. Keisha reportedly feared for her safety and requested that her sister contact police if anything happened to her. Keisha also failed to appear for her shift at work. In addition, Keisha's sister informed police that the Defendant had "travel arrangements to leave the region in the next couple of days."

         Pursuant to the missing person report filed by Keisha's sister, Delaware State Police responded to the residence shared by Keisha and the Defendant (hereinafter, referred to as, the "Residence"), as Keisha was reportedly last seen at the Residence the night before. Police knocked on the door and rang the doorbell multiple times, but no one responded. As a result, police entered the Residence after Keisha's brother unlocked the door with a key that he possessed. Police were unable to locate Keisha, the Defendant, or their children. However, as police were searching the Residence for Keisha, police discovered large pools of blood, blood stains, and blood spatter. Police determined the blood was human through the use of a Blood Kit but were not able to determine from whom the blood came. Thereafter, police continued their search for Keisha and her children.

         One of the methods used to locate the children included what is known as, an "AMBER Alert." Indiana State Police, responding to the alert, discovered the children traveling with the Defendant. The Defendant was driving a red 2005 Chevrolet Suburban. Indiana police subsequently held the Defendant as a result of the Delaware investigation.

         In the meantime, Delaware police obtained search warrants based on the information provided by Keisha's sister, the blood evidence already discovered at the Residence, and information that Keisha had obtained Protection From Abuse Orders ("PFAs") against the Defendant in the past. The first warrant permitted Delaware police to search the Residence. Police seized a clothing zipper, a black handle butcher knife, an empty plastic bottle, a white blanket, two bathroom containers, swabs containing suspected blood, five towels, an HP laptop, and two carpet samples. The second warrant permitted Delaware police to search Keisha's 2007 Toyota Matrix. The vehicle was discovered by police in a parking lot within close proximity to the Residence, apparently abandoned. Police seized soil samples, DNA swabs, two rolls of duct tape, a Coach bag containing miscellaneous ID, and a gear shift knob.

         On January 11, 2015, Indiana police obtained a search warrant for the 2005 Chevrolet Suburban driven by the Defendant. The warrant was based on information provided by Keisha's sister to Delaware police, the blood evidence discovered in the Residence, and the fact that Keisha's vehicle was found abandoned in a parking lot. Indiana police seized a bloody hammer, bloody clothing belonging to Keisha, clothing and shoes belonging to the Defendant, which were partially covered with mud and stained blood, and various personal items belonging to Keisha, including her wedding ring, a lock of her hair, her purse, and a cell phone.

         On January 15, 2015, Delaware police obtained a second warrant to search the Residence. In addition to information already provided in the previous warrant for the Residence, the affiant stated that an additional search was required because the evidence seized by Indiana police indicated that Keisha may have been murdered. The additional evidence also indicated, according to the affiant, how Keisha's body may have been disposed of. Thus, the affiant requested an additional opportunity to search the Residence. Police seized molding from a hallway bathroom door, swabbing from a bathroom door, a fitted sheet from the master bedroom, lower trim of a dresser, drywall in the hallway, the fronts of three dresser drawers, and a box containing trash bags.

         On February 13, 2015, Delaware police obtained a third warrant to search the Residence, as well as the 2005 Chevrolet Suburban. Delaware police were particularly interested in searching any GPS device located within the vehicle in order to determine where the vehicle had traveled prior to the Defendant's arrest. As Keisha had not been located, police thought the GPS might lead to the discovery of her body. In addition, police requested an opportunity to remove additional carpet samples, carpet padding, and subflooring from the Residence in order to conduct a "blood volume examination." Police seized a section of carpet from the Residence, a section of carpet padding from the Residence, a section of subfloor containing suspected blood in the second floor hallway, and a Kenwood stereo system from the 2005 Chevrolet Suburban.

         PARTIES ARGUMENTS

         On August 24, 2017, Defendant filed his first motion to suppress (the "Defendant's First Motion") in this matter. The Defendant's First Motion contests the investigatory stop conducted by Indiana police because, according to the Defendant, police lacked a reasonable articulable suspicion or probable cause to believe that the Defendant committed any criminal or traffic violation within Indiana. Second, Defendant contends that the warrant issued to search the 2005 Chevrolet Suburban was unsupported by probable cause. Third, the Defendant contends that the search of the 2005 Chevrolet Suburban exceeded the scope of the warrant.

         In response to the Defendant's First Motion, the State contends that the Defendant's motion to suppress is untimely. The motions untimeliness, according to the State, places a burden on the State because the State's trial preparations will be seriously interrupted if the Court considers the merits of the Defendant's First Motion. In addition, the State contends that even if the Court considers the merits of the Defendant's First Motion, that the motion is without merit. The State alleges that the vehicle stop conducted by Indiana police was permissible as a result of the "AMBER Alert" issued by Delaware police. The State also contends that the warrant was supported by probable cause. Finally, the State contends that the warrant was properly executed.

         On August 28, 2017, the Defendant filed his second (the "Defendant's Second Motion") and third motion (the "Defendant's Third Motion") to suppress. The Defendant's Second Motion contests the warrant issued to search the 2007 Toyota Matrix registered to Keisha. The Defendant contends that the warrant was unsupported by probable cause to believe the vehicle contained evidence or instrumentalities of a crime. The Defendant also claims that the search of vehicle "exceeded the authority granted to ...


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