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State v. Selby

Superior Court of Delaware

July 31, 2018

STATE OF DELAWARE,
v.
JAWONE SELBY, Defendant.

          Date Submitted: April 25, 2018

         Upon Defendant Jawone Selby 's Motion to Sever Offenses: GRANTED in part, and DENIED in part.

          John S. Taylor, Esquire, Department of Justice, Deputy Attorney General.

          Christina L. Ruggiero, Esquire, and Eugene J. Maurer, Jr., Esquire, Attorneys for Defendant.

          OPINION

          Jan R. Jurden, President Judge

          I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         On February 26, 2018, Jawone Selby, was indicted for Robbery First Degree, two counts of Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony, Conspiracy Second Degree, Wearing a Disguise During the Commission of a Felony, Resisting Arrest, Assault Second Degree, Possession of a Firearm by a Person Prohibited ("PFBPP"), and Possession of Ammunition by a Person Prohibited ("PABPP").[1] The charges stem from a February 17, 2018 robbery Selby allegedly committed with Jarrett Roane and Khalier Ross. Pending before the Court is Selby's Motion to Sever Offenses, pursuant to Superior Court Criminal Rule 14. For the reasons that follow, Selby's Motion to Sever Offenses is GRANTED in part, and DENIED in part

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The decision to grant or deny a motion to sever rests in the sound discretion of the trial court.[2] On a motion to sever, the defendant bears the burden of demonstrating unfair prejudice and substantial injustice associated with the joinder.[3]The defendant cannot rely upon hypothetical prejudice; he must demonstrate that prejudice will in fact result from the joinder.[4] Whether severance is appropriate depends on the facts and circumstances of each case.[5] "Ultimately, the Court must balance the rights of the accused against the legitimate concern for judicial economy."[6]

         III. DISCUSSION

         Selby is charged with status-based crimes, i.e., PFBPP and PABPP, because in July 2017 he was convicted of Attempted Robbery Second Degree, Assault Second Degree, and Robbery Second Degree. He argues his PFBPP and PABPP offenses should be tried separately because the State will be required to present evidence of these prior convictions and such evidence would create unfair prejudice.[7] He further contends that if the Court decides to sever his status-based crimes, evidence of his prior convictions would not be admissible in the trial of his remaining counts.

         The State concedes that there is merit to Selby's Motion to Sever Offenses, but does not agree that a second trial and jury are warranted.[8] Accordingly, the State offers three alternatives to severance: (1) sanitization/stipulation; (2) a simultaneous bench trial; or (3) a bifurcated jury trial with the same jury.[9] The State avers that each alternative provides "a just, prejudice-free adjudication."[10]

         When crimes are of the same or substantial character, based upon the same act, or represent a common plan or scheme, Delaware Superior Court Criminal Rule 8(a) allows the State to join the offenses and prosecute the defendant in one trial for different counts.[11] The purpose of the joinder of offenses is to promote judicial economy.[12] When joining the offenses will prejudice the State or the accused, however, one trial is not appropriate and, pursuant to Delaware Superior Court Criminal Rule 14, severance may be granted.[13]

         The prejudice which a defendant may suffer from a joinder of offenses is described in the following three situations: (1) the jury may cumulate the evidence of the various crimes charged and find guilt when, if considered separately, it would not so find; (2) the jury may use the evidence of one of the crimes to infer a general criminal disposition of the defendant in order to find guilt of the other crime or crimes; and (3) the defendant may be subject to embarrassment or confusion in presenting different and separate defenses to different charges.[14] When considering the prejudice to a defendant, the Court also examines whether the evidence would be admissible in the severed trial for a proper purpose under Rule 404(b).[15]"Although reciprocal admissibility ...


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