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Law v. State

Supreme Court of Delaware

April 30, 2018

DARRELL LAW, Defendant Below, Appellant,
STATE OF DELAWARE, Plaintiff Below, Appellee.

          Submitted: March 20, 2018

          Court Below-Superior Court of the State of Delaware Cr. ID No. 1601013816 (N)

          Before STRINE, Chief Justice; SEITZ and TRAYNOR, Justices.


          Gary F. Traynor Justice

         This 30th day of April 2018, upon consideration of the appellant's Supreme Court Rule 26(c) brief, the State's response, and the record below, it appears to the Court that:

         (1) In June 2017, a Superior Court jury found the appellant, Darrell Law, guilty of Aggravated Possession (Tier 5), Drug Dealing (Tier 4), Conspiracy in the Second Degree, and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia. The Drug Dealing conviction was merged with the Aggravated Possession conviction for sentencing. The Superior Court sentenced Law as follows: (i) for Aggravated Possession (Tier 5), twenty-five years of Level V incarceration, suspended after five years for decreasing levels of supervision; (ii) for Conspiracy in the Second Degree, two years of Level V incarceration, suspended for one year of Level II probation; and (iii) Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, a suspended $500.00 fine. This is Law's direct appeal.

         (2) The State's witnesses at trial included three Delaware State Police officers and a forensic analyst chemist from the Department of Forensic Sciences. Officer Thomas Macauley testified that he was patrolling Route 13 in Harrington on November 6, 2016. After he saw a car going southbound at a high rate of speed, Officer Macauley directed the driver of the car to pull over. Another police officer, Officer Brian Holl, was following Officer Macauley in another car and pulled over as well.

         (3) When Officer Macauley spoke to the driver, Kurt McIntosh, regarding the reason for the stop, he thought McIntosh seemed extremely nervous. Officer Macauley also noticed the odor of marijuana in the car. Law was in the front passenger seat of the car. The police officers took Law[1] and McIntosh into custody. Based on the marijuana odor, the police conducted a search of the car interior. Officer Holl found 1, 622 bags containing 14.488 grams of heroin under the front passenger seat and marijuana on the floor.

         (4) Detective Jason Vernon testified that the heroin was for resale based on the amount and packaging. Detective Vernon interviewed Law, who stated that he was delivering the heroin to a drug dealer in Rehoboth. Because the video recording system was not working, the only record of the interview was Detective Vernon's handwritten notes. A forensic analytical chemist testified that testing of a random sampling of the substance found in the car confirmed that it was heroin.

         (5) McIntosh and Law testified for the defense. McIntosh, who had pleaded guilty to Drug Dealing, testified that the heroin belonged to him and that Law knew nothing about the heroin. Law testified that he knew nothing about the heroin. He also testified that he lied to Detective Vernon about delivering the heroin to Rehoboth in order to cut a deal.

         (6) On appeal, Law's counsel ("Counsel") filed a brief and a motion to withdraw under Supreme Court Rule 26(c), asserting that, based upon a complete and careful examination of the record, there are no arguably appealable issues. Counsel informed Law of the provisions of Rule 26(c) and provided Law with a copy of the motion to withdraw and the accompanying brief.

         (7) Counsel also informed Law of his right to identify any points he wished this Court to consider on appeal. Law has raised two issues for this Court's consideration. The State has responded to the Rule 26(c) brief and has moved to affirm the Superior Court's judgment.

         (8) When reviewing a motion to withdraw and an accompanying brief under Rule 26(c), this Court must: (i) be satisfied that defense counsel has made a conscientious examination of the record and the law for arguable claims; and (ii) conduct its own review of the record and determine whether the appeal is so totally devoid of at least arguably appealable issues that it can be decided without an adversary presentation.[2]

         (9) Law raises two issues on appeal. He argues that the Superior Court erred in denying his pro se motion to suppress the heroin found in the car and infringed upon his right to represent himself. We review the Superior Court's denial of a motion to suppress for abuse of discretion.[3] We review issues of law de novo.[4]As he did below, Law argues that the traffic stop was a pretext to conduct an illegal search for drugs based on racial discrimination. Law also argues that the State's failure ...

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