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Waples v. State

Supreme Court of Delaware

July 9, 2018

CATHERINE D. WAPLES, Defendant Below, Appellant,
v.
THE STATE OF DELAWARE, Plaintiff Below, Appellee.

          Submitted: May 9, 2018

          Court Below: Superior Court of the State of Delaware ID. No. 1608002838

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

          ORDER

          James T. Vaughn, Jr. Justice.

         On this 9th day of July 2018, upon consideration of the parties' briefs and the record on appeal, it appears to the Court that:

         (1) Catherine D. Waples was convicted of two counts of Drug Dealing Plus Aggravator by a Superior Court jury.[1] The convictions stemmed from two sales of crack cocaine she made to an undercover police officer. She makes two claims on appeal. First, she contends that the Superior Court erred by not ordering the State to disclose the identity of a confidential informant whose involvement in the case was not disclosed by the State despite Waples having requested such disclosure in discovery requests. She also contends that the Superior Court erred by not granting her at least a Flowers hearing and/or a new trial because of the State's failure to disclose the use of the informant.[2] For the reasons which follow, we reject both contentions and affirm the judgment of the Superior Court.

         (2) The State alleged that the first drug sale occurred on June 22, 2016. An undercover police officer called Waples by cell phone and arranged to buy $60 worth of crack cocaine. As agreed, the two met at the Dollar General in Laurel. The undercover officer exited his vehicle and walked to a blue minivan occupied by Waples. As he approached Waples' vehicle, an individual named George White stepped out of Waples' vehicle and walked away. Waples told the undercover officer to get in the back seat. There was a black male sitting in the front passenger seat and two children in the back seat. The officer and Waples then exchanged the cash and crack cocaine.

         (3) The next day the undercover officer again contacted Waples to buy crack cocaine. This time he said he wanted to buy $20 worth. The two agreed to meet at the Hollybrook Apartment complex in Laurel. Within minutes the officer arrived at the apartment complex. Waples arrived a short time later. As had occurred the day before, when the officer approached Waples' vehicle, George White stepped out of Waples' vehicle and walked away. Waples and the officer then completed their transaction. This time there was no one else in Waples' vehicle.

         (4) Waples was subsequently arrested and charged with two counts of Drug Dealing Plus Aggravator and two counts of Conspiracy in the Second Degree. George White was a co-defendant. During pre-trial proceedings, Waples' attorney served a detailed request for discovery upon the State under Superior Court Criminal Rule 16. The request asked the State to provide "[a] statement as to the involvement of any confidential informant(s), if applicable."[3] Subsequently, Waples obtained new counsel, and her new counsel also served a detailed request for discovery. The second request appears to be substantially identical to the one served by her first counsel. The second request also asked the State to provide "[a] statement as to the involvement of any confidential informant(s), if applicable."[4] In its responses to the requests for discovery, the State made no mention of a confidential informant. Police reports were produced, but they made no mention of any confidential informant.

         (5) Trial commenced on February 27, 2017. On direct examination the undercover officer who was the buyer in the two drug transactions, Detective Sean Callaway of the Delaware State Police, described his purchases from Waples consistently with the accounts set forth above. On cross-examination, Detective Callaway was asked by defense counsel how he came to know Waples. He said he was introduced to her. When asked by who, the State made the following objection before the officer answered:

Your Honor, two objections here. It is irrelevant at this point of how Detective Callaway became familiar with Ms. Waples. And should counsel have been interested in that, that is something that should have been brought up in a Flower's motion prior to trial.[5]

         The prosecutor's objection overlooked the fact that defense counsel had no knowledge of possible involvement of a confidential informant until the State's objection was made at trial.

         (6) After a side bar, the trial judge overruled the objection. Detective Callaway then answered as follows:

I was contacted by a past-proven reliable confidential informant who advised me that Catherine Waples and George White were selling crack cocaine in Laurel. I obtained a DELJIS photograph of Catherine Waples and George White. I presented it to a past-proven reliable confidential informant and that person said, yes, that is Catherine Waples and George White who are selling crack cocaine in the Town of Laurel, in and around the Town of Laurel. And ...

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