Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Graham v. State

Supreme Court of Delaware

September 18, 2017

LEVAR GRAHAM, Defendant Below, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF DELAWARE, Plaintiff Below, Appellee.

          Submitted: September 13, 2017

         Court Below-Superior Court of the State of Delaware Cr. ID No. 1607004836 (N)

          Before VALIHURA, SEITZ, and TRAYNOR, Justices.

          ORDER

          GARY F. TRAYNOR, JUSTICE

         This 18th day of September, 2017, upon consideration of the parties' briefs and the record on appeal, it appears to the Court that:

         (1) A Superior Court jury convicted Levar Graham of Resisting Arrest with Force or Violence (a felony) ("Resisting Arrest"), and acquitted him of Offensive Touching of a Law Enforcement Officer ("Offensive Touching") and Disorderly Conduct (both misdemeanors). This is Graham's direct appeal.

         (2) After the jury returned its verdict, Graham moved for a new trial on the ground that the verdicts were fatally inconsistent. More particularly, Graham claimed that the jury's acquittal on the Offensive Touching charge shows that "it implicitly rejected the State's evidence and theory concerning the necessary force element within the felony [Resisting Arrest] charge, " necessitating a new trial.[1]After reviewing the evidence and concluding that the verdicts were not inconsistent, the Superior Court denied the motion and sentenced Graham to two years of Level 5 incarceration suspended for one year of Level 3 intensive supervision. Implicit in the court's ruling was the related conclusion that there was sufficient evidence to support the felony Resisting Arrest conviction. We agree with both of these conclusions and therefore affirm.

         (3) This Court reviews the trial court's denial of a motion for a new trial for an abuse of discretion.[2]

         (4) In Tilden v. State, [3] we held that inconsistency alone is an insufficient basis for challenging a jury verdict and that "the controlling standard for testing a claim of inconsistent verdicts is the rule of jury lenity . . . coupled with the sufficiency of evidence standard."[4] Citing the United States Supreme Court's opinion in United States v. Powell, [5] we also held in Tilden that "[i]f the inconsistency can be explained in terms of jury lenity, the convictions may stand."[6] In reviewing an inconsistent verdict claim, the Court must still test the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the conviction.[7] When considering the sufficiency of the evidence, the standard is "whether considering the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, including all reasonable inferences to be drawn therefrom, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt."[8]

         (5) Graham claims that the verdicts were inconsistent because (a) a necessary element of Resisting Arrest was the use of force or violence, (b) the only facts presented by the State supporting the force-or-violence element was testimony from the arresting officer that Graham struck him in the face, and (c) the jury's finding of "not guilty" of Offensive Touching was a rejection of the allegation that Graham used force or violence. A review of the conflicting testimony describing Graham's arrest, however, supports the trial judge's conclusion that the evidence supported both an acquittal of Offensive Touching and a conviction of Resisting Arrest.

         (6) The officer claimed that Graham struck him in the face with a clenched fist.[9] A witness testified that the officer tried to grab Graham's wrist but that Graham avoided the officer's grasp. This witness did not see Graham strike the officer but said Graham "did some type of twist and the cop fell and [Graham] ran and the cop started running after him."[10] Graham himself testified that he did not strike the officer but acknowledged that the officer tried to grab his hand and started "dragging him" but that he broke loose and "took off."[11]

         (7) The trial judge posited two scenarios, each of which would explain the simultaneous conviction for Resisting Arrest and acquittal of Offensive Touching of that same officer. Under the first scenario, it was Graham's twisting motion, described by the trial judge as a "swing" or "flail, " and not the alleged striking of the officer in the face, that constituted force. Under the second, the jury might have accepted that Graham struck the officer in the face but did so without the requisite mental state, i.e., without "intentionally . . . knowing that the person is thereby likely to cause offense or alarm."[12] Seen in this light, the verdicts were not inconsistent.

         (8) But inconsistency alone does not warrant a new trial or reversal. As discussed above, under Tilden, "the controlling standard for testing a claim of inconsistent verdicts is the rule of lenity . . . coupled with the sufficiency of evidence standard." The sufficiency-of-evidence standard focuses on whether any rational fact finder could have found the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. To support the conviction, the State was required to prove that Graham intentionally prevented or attempted to prevent the officer from effecting an arrest by use of force or violence towards the officer or that Graham intentionally fled from an officer who was attempting to arrest or detain him by use of force or violence toward the officer.[13] The arresting officer testified that he intended to arrest Graham for disorderly conduct and, in the process, grabbed him by the arm. It is also clear from Graham's testimony that he knew that he was being detained and that, when the officer grabbed him by his shirt or arm, he pulled away and ran.

         (9) The only remaining question regarding the sufficiency of the evidence is whether Graham used force or violence. While the Resisting Arrest statute does not define "force, " our case law has applied its ordinary meaning and dictionary definition: the use of strength or power.[14] Here, the witnesses' description of Graham's struggle with the officer is consistent with that definition.[15] As the trial judge reasoned, there was sufficient evidence to prove that Graham used force or violence either in the "swing" or "flail" when he ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.