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Elder v. State

Supreme Court of Delaware

December 3, 2018

DAVID L. ELDER, Defendant Below, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF DELAWARE, Plaintiff Below, Appellee.

          Court Below: Superior Court of the State of Delaware Cr. ID No. 1512017983

          Submitted: November 28, 2018

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

          ORDER

          Leo E. Strine, Jr. Chief Justice.

         This 3rd day of December 2018, it appears to the Court that:

         (1) Defendant David Elder was convicted of (i) rape in the first degree; (ii) rape in the second degree during the commission of a crime; (iii) first degree burglary; and (iv) wearing a disguise during the commission of a felony.[1] On appeal, the sole issue he raises is that the State was grossly negligent by failing to first investigate whether a camera system at his home recorded the kitchen on the night of the rape and then preserve that evidence. Elder claims that the surveillance video the State failed to preserve would have not shown Elder placing a key to his victim's home into his wife's purse, contrary to the State's theory of the case. As a result of this failure to collect and preserve this evidence, Elder argues that the jury should have been instructed, under Deberry, [2] "that the missing evidence would have been exculpatory."[3]

         (2) We have reviewed the record carefully and find no error in the Superior Court's refusal to grant Elder's request for a Deberry instruction on this ground.[4]The Superior Court found that the State had no duty to seek out this evidence because the evidence was not at the crime scene and the police knew only that some type of surveillance system was in the home, but they did not know if it recorded.[5] That finding is supported by the record.[6] The surveillance tapes that Elder contends would have existed for 30 days were ones on a system that he said existed in his own home. But, it was not until after his first trial that Elder made the State aware of the system's recording capabilities. Not only was Elder's home not the scene of the alleged crime, but Elder was the person uniquely positioned to bring this to the State's attention in a timely manner. The State does not have a duty to seek out exculpatory evidence, [7] and the Superior Court did not err by finding that the State was not negligent by failing to identify that Elder's own home had a security system and that the system might have films relevant to an alleged crime that occurred at a different location.

         NOW, THEREFORE, IT IS ORDERED that the judgment of the Superior Court is AFFIRMED.

---------

Notes:

[1] Opening Br. at 5.

[2] Deberry v. State, 457 A.2d 744 (Del. 1983).

[3] Lolly v. State, 611 A.2d 956, 961 (Del. 1992).

[4] "This Court reviews de novo the Superior Court's denial of a requested jury instruction." Gutierrez v. State, 842 A.2d 650, 651 (Del. 2003) (citing Lunnon v. State, 710 A.2d ...


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