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Wingate v. State

Supreme Court of Delaware

June 14, 2018

JOSEPH S. WINGATE, Defendant Below, Appellant,
STATE OF DELAWARE, Plaintiff Below, Appellee.

          Submitted: April 18, 2018

          Court Below: Superior Court of the State of Delaware Cr. ID No. 1612005276 (N)

          Before STRINE, Chief Justice; VALIHURA and VAUGHN, Justices.



         This is the appellant's direct appeal from his conviction and sentencing in the Superior Court. Having considered the no-merit brief and motion to withdraw submitted by the appellant's counsel under Supreme Court Rule 26(c), the State's response, and the Superior Court record, it appears to the Court that:

         (1) On December 8, 2016, Detective Jason Russo of the Delaware State Police saw the appellant, Joseph Wingate, driving a black Chevrolet Monte Carlo eastbound on Route 40 in Bear, Delaware. A female sat in the front passenger seat of the car. Detective Russo was in an unmarked undercover car and knew that Wingate had an active capias. Detective Russo radioed dispatch for a uniformed officer to conduct a vehicle stop of the Monte Carlo. Corporal Robin Brown positioned her fully marked patrol car directly behind the Monte Carlo and activated the overhead lights and siren. The Monte Carlo initially slowed down in the right lane, but then it sped away, and a high speed chase ensued. During the pursuit, the Monte Carlo disregarded and ran traffic signals and drove on the shoulder and in the center median at speeds exceeding ninety miles per hour. A mobile video recorder ("MVR") in Corporal Brown's patrol vehicle recorded the pursuit.

         (2) Corporal Stephen Ballard and Detective Michael Lilly joined Corporal Brown in pursuing the Monte Carlo as it raced southbound on Route 13. At the top of the St. George's Bridge, Wingate slowed the Monte Carlo and pulled over to the right side of the road. An object was thrown out of the passenger side window and onto the road, and Wingate sped off and continued southbound on Route 13. Detective Lilly remained at the bridge and recovered the package thrown from the Monte Carlo. The package contained 652 individual bags of a substance that was later determined to be heroin.

         (3) After crossing the St. George's Bridge, the Monte Carlo turned off of Route 13 and headed toward the Delaware-Maryland border. By this time, a Delaware State Police helicopter equipped with a MVR had joined in the pursuit of the Monte Carlo. When Wingate drove over the Maryland state line, the patrol cars backed off, and the helicopter continued following Wingate as he drove into Maryland.

         (4) In Chesapeake City, Maryland, Wingate stopped briefly in front of the Chesapeake Inn. The passenger exited the Monte Carlo and Wingate drove away. The passenger was taken into custody by Maryland State Police officers who were directed to the location by Detective Russo. The helicopter continued following the Monte Carlo until it was stopped by the Maryland State Police near Northeast, Maryland, where Wingate was taken into custody. Detective Russo returned to Delaware to apply for a warrant for Wingate's arrest on drug and motor vehicle charges.

         (5) Following his arrest in Delaware, Wingate was indicted for drug and motor vehicle offenses. A few days before trial, Wingate moved for permission to discharge his appointed counsel ("Trial Counsel") and represent himself at trial. When a defendant asserts the right to self-representation, the trial court is required to conduct an evidentiary hearing to determine whether the defendant's waiver of the right to counsel is knowing, voluntary, and intelligent.[1]

         (6) The hearing on Wingate's motion to proceed pro se was held before a Superior Court Commissioner. Wingate, Trial Counsel, and the prosecutor appeared at the hearing. Wingate told the Commissioner that he wanted to proceed pro se because his Trial Counsel had refused to file a pretrial motion to suppress. According to Wingate, a motion to suppress was warranted because he was arrested on the basis of a false statement in the affidavit of probable cause for the arrest warrant-that Detective Russo saw Wingate throwing drugs from the Monte Carlo-and because the State had withheld discovery from the defense. When asked about the status of discovery, Trial Counsel informed the Commissioner that, earlier that day, the State had provided the defense with a DVD of a statement given by the passenger. Trial Counsel indicated that the gist of the statement was that Wingate handed the package of drugs to the passenger and told her to throw it out of the window.

         (7) At the conclusion of the hearing, the Commissioner found that Wingate's waiver of the right to counsel was knowing, intelligent, and voluntary and granted the motion to proceed pro se, contingent upon the Trial Judge's review. At the start of trial the following day and after thoroughly discussing with Wingate the inherent risks of proceeding to trial without counsel, the Trial Judge granted Wingate's motion to proceed pro se.

         (8) Before starting trial, the Trial Judge asked if there were any other preliminary matters she needed to address. In response, Trial Counsel gave the following update about the DVD of the passenger's statement:

Just an issue that has been resolved, Your Honor. Yesterday, the State gave me a DVD of a female witness that was purportedly in the car with Mr. - in the car that the police chased. I tried to play it today. It was not audible downstairs, but the issue is resolved because that witness is not going to testify at trial. So I ...

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