Submitted: September 14, 2018
Consideration of Defendant's Motion for New Trial,
J. Maurer, Jr., Esquire, and Elise K. Wolpert, Esquire, of
Eugene J. Maurer, Jr., P.A., of Wilmington, Delaware.
Attorneys for Defendant.
S. Grubb, Esquire, and Zachary D. Rosen, Esquire, Deputy
Attorneys General, of Department of Justice, of Wilmington,
Delaware. Attorneys for State.
L. MEDINILLA, J.
13, 2018, a jury returned guilty verdicts against Defendant
Lamott Matthews on the charges of Murder First Degree and
Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony
("PFDCF"). He timely moves this Court for a new
trial under Superior Court Criminal Rule 33 and argues that
the State's misrepresentations during closing arguments
prejudiced and deprived him of his right to a fair
trial. For the reasons stated below,
Defendant's Motion for New Trial is
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
5, 2018, this Court began a six-day jury trial in connection
with the shooting death of William Brown that occurred on
November 16, 2015 at the Gold Club ("Club") in
Wilmington, Delaware. The State introduced evidence through
seventeen (17) witnesses, including five (5) key individuals
who were patrons and employees of the Club, present on the
Sunday night-Monday morning in question. Mr. Brown, a regular
at the Club, was fatally shot in a bathroom near the entrance
of the Club following an altercation with the shooter.
was no dispute that Defendant had arrived at the Club earlier
in the evening with two women. Both women testified that the
three of them had traveled to a local bowling alley bar,
consumed alcoholic beverages, and then went to the Club bar
where they drank more into the early hours of November
16th. Also undisputed was that, during these early
hours, a man was seen running into the Club shortly before a
gun shot was heard, and out of the Club immediately after the
shooting. The State argued that this man was the Defendant,
who left the Club at some point before the shooting, and ran
back in to shoot the victim.
was no evidence of any prior dealings between the victim and
Defendant. The State's theory, argued succinctly during
its closing argument, was that "one shot was fired by a
man driven by inexplicable anger and unjustified paranoia
that was created out of thin air that evening...[because the
Defendant thought the victim was] 'looking at him funny,
eyeing him up weird,' and he didn't want to be
soft." The evidence to support what led Defendant
to shoot the victim was therefore presented through a handful
of witnesses who were working at or near the Club, as well as
from individuals who were patronizing the Club that night.
observations of the witnesses from that evening were critical
to the State's case especially where there was no
physical or forensic evidence connecting Defendant to the
murder. No weapon was introduced. No surveillance was
presented of the inside of the Club. And although
surveillance of an adjacent motel parking lot was introduced
to suggest that Defendant was seen running into a vehicle
with one of the women who testified that they were the
individuals seen in the video, an employee of the motel
offered a different description of the person(s) she saw and
heard depicted on the same surveillance footage. Further,
another witness, mentioned in greater detail below, testified
that the man she saw running out of the Club immediately
after the shooting jumped into a vehicle located on the
Club's property, not the motel property.
State's closing remarks at issue deserve a contextual
framework. To prove identity-that the Defendant was the
shooter or the same person who ran in and out of the Club-the
State directed the jury to consider the collective vantage
points of five witnesses in various locations of the
Club. In doing so, the State presented a diagram
to the jury and outlined the location of the Club's three
employees and two patrons at the time of the shooting,
discussed their observations, and highlighted what they said
patron was Jennifer Sanchez, one of the women who was at the
Club with the Defendant. Ms. Sanchez testified that Defendant
made some form of a confession to the shooting. Yet, her
recall was questionable. The State conceded that there were
inconsistencies in her testimony due to either an
unwillingness to get involved with the investigation or a
lack of recall due to great amounts of alcohol consumption.
The second patron was Hector Ocampo, the man in the bathroom
and the only eyewitness to the shooting. Mr. Ocampo, a
non-English speaker, also admitted through an interpreter
that his recollection was limited due to having had consumed
large quantities of alcohol that night. His description of
the shooter did not match that of the Defendant. Therefore,
the prosecutor argued that any inconsistencies of the patrons
could be reconciled through highlighted portions of the
testimony from the Club staff, most notably, Crystal
Schneider, the bartender, and Natasha Chanelle, the person
working the front door.
trial, Ms. Chanelle was asked about her recall of two
separate and distinct time periods. The first timeframe
related to what she remembered about the person who entered
the club with the two females earlier that Sunday. Then, she
was asked about the individual she saw run in and out of the
club hours later at the time of the shooting. As to the
description of the man with the two women, she described him
as "[l]ight skinned, that's all I can
remember." She did not identify the Defendant.
Chanelle was then asked about the man she saw run in and out
of the Club. She testified:
A. Brandon and I were at the register doing a check on the
register.... A gentleman ran into the club. We heard shots.
The same gentleman ran out. And that's when me and
Brandon went into the club and we found someone shot.
Q. Are you able to describe the person that you're
telling us ran out of the club?
A. Besides what I just said, no.
Q. But it would be the same description?
A. Besides what I just said no. I can't - -1 didn't
see his face. I don't remember the face of the gentleman
that came in. As I said, I work at the door, there's
thousands of people that come through that door at any
particular night. And I worked there seven days a week.
A. The gentleman that ran out of the club, I described as --
that he's light skinned with a grey hoodie on. That's
all I can say.
Q. Did you see where the person that ran out of club that you
just described went?
A. To a red car parked by the sign.
Q. Do you remember anything else about the red car?
A. Just that it was parked by the sign.
Q. You mentioned a hoodie. Do you recall seeing anyone else
in the club that was wearing a hoodie that evening?
A. A couple.
cross-examination, defense counsel asked several follow-up
questions regarding whether the individual who entered the
Club with the two women was the same individual that Ms.
Chanelle saw run out of the Club after the shots, and
referenced prior statements she had made to the Delaware
State Police. The cross-examination went as follows:
Q. And your statement then, which I think is the same today,
you can't really say whether it was the same person; is
Q. And you also said, referring to page 3 of the statement at
the very bottom, you were asked a specific question whether
it was the same guy you saw run in and then run out?
And your answer was: That, I don't know.
counsel again referred to the statement she previously gave
to the Delaware State Police to ask about the identity of the
guy who ran in and out of the Club:
Q. And then later on on page 4 of the statement that you gave
later you were asked whether or not the rude guy, which is
the one that came in initially that night, was the same guy
that you saw run in and run out. And you said you
A. I couldn't.
Q. You couldn't say whether it was the same person or a