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Crump v. State

Supreme Court of Delaware

February 7, 2019

JAQUAN CRUMP, Defendant Below, Appellant,
STATE OF DELAWARE, Plaintiff Below, Appellee.

          Submitted: December 28, 2018

          Court Below-Superior Court of the State of Delaware Cr. ID No. 1707005117

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



         After consideration of the parties' briefs and the record on appeal, it appears to the Court that:

         (1) In February 2018, a Superior Court jury found the defendant-appellant, JaQuan Crump, guilty of Assault in the First Degree and Possession of a Deadly Weapon During the Commission of a Felony. The Superior Court sentenced Crump to twenty years in prison, suspended for decreasing levels of supervision after five years, for each offense. This is Crump's direct appeal.

         (2) The evidence presented at trial reflects that around midnight on July 8, 2017, Brandy Gross was outside of Irish Mike's, a bar on Loockerman Street in Dover, when Crump, whom she had known for approximately five years, approached her. Gross and Crump argued, and he punched her in the face, knocking her to the ground. Gross testified that Crump was angry because Gross had recently told him that she did not want a romantic relationship with him. After Crump punched her, Gross borrowed a friend's phone in order to report the assault. Crump then stabbed her in the back with a knife and ran away. The knife remained in Gross's back. A friend drove Gross to the hospital, where the knife had to be surgically removed. Gross had three stab wounds and a punctured lung; she remained in the hospital for approximately one week.

         (3) Corporal Derrick Mast of the Dover Police Department was one of the officers who responded to the scene of the incident. Shortly after arriving at the scene, he learned that the victim had gone to the hospital with stab wounds. Corporal Mast went to the hospital emergency room and located Gross in a trauma bay with the knife protruding from her back. Gross identified Crump as her assailant. Approximately ten days later, Crump was apprehended in a vacant house in Dover.

         (4) A public defender was appointed to represent Crump. Shortly before trial was scheduled to begin, Crump requested to waive his right to counsel based on disagreements between Crump and his attorney concerning the defense. After a colloquy, the Superior Court granted Crump's request and allowed him to proceed pro se. The Court ordered Crump's former counsel to remain as standby counsel.

         (5) Crump raises six issues in his pro se opening brief on appeal. First, he contends that his right to Brady[1] material was violated because he was not permitted to inspect Gross's medical records before or during trial. Second, Crump argues that the State committed a Brady violation when it failed to disclose that, before Crump's trial, one of the police officers who had investigated the stabbing was placed on administrative leave after being arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. Third, he asserts that the prosecutor committed various forms of prosecutorial misconduct. Fourth, Crump argues that the testimony of a witness who authenticated a surveillance video during the trial constituted impermissible opinion testimony by a lay witness. Fifth, he contends that the Court's decision to permit certain increased security measures during closing arguments was prejudicial. Sixth, Crump argues that, even if none of the foregoing arguments justifies reversal on its own, they constitute "cumulative error" warranting reversal. We address these issues in order.

         (6) This Court generally reviews properly preserved claims of constitutional error de novo.[2] Because Crump did not preserve any of his claims of error below, we review for plain error.[3] To constitute plain error, an error must be so clearly prejudicial to substantial rights as to jeopardize the fairness and integrity of the trial process.[4]

         The Victim's Hospital Records

         (7) Crump's first argument on appeal is that the State's and the Superior Court's refusal to allow him to inspect the hospital records relating to the victim's treatment following the stabbing violated his right to Brady material, the Confrontation Clause, and Superior Court Criminal Rule 16.

         (8) Under Brady v. Maryland, "suppression by the prosecution of evidence favorable to an accused upon request violates due process where the evidence is material either to guilt or to punishment."[5] In order to demonstrate a Brady violation, the defendant must establish three elements: the evidence is favorable to the accused because it is either exculpatory or impeaching; the State suppressed the evidence, either willfully or inadvertently; and the defendant was prejudiced.[6]

         (9) Crump contends that the hospital records are favorable because they might have allowed him to impeach Gross's testimony in order to demonstrate that she suffered only "physical injury" sufficient to support a conviction for second- degree assault, rather than the "serious physical injury" necessary to support a conviction for first-degree assault. Specifically, he argues that Gross testified during direct examination that she was in the hospital for "four weeks" following the stabbing and then, in response to the very next question, indicated that she was in the hospital for one week. Viewing the testimony as a whole, the Court concludes that the hospital records would not have been useful for impeachment purposes. The records, which show that Gross was in the hospital for one week, were admitted into evidence; other than the single reference to "four weeks" in the transcript, which may have been a simple misstatement or a transcription error, there was no suggestion that she spent more than one week in the hospital.[7] If the statement were significant, Crump could have cross-examined Gross about her purportedly inconsistent testimony, but he did not.

         (10) The State also did not suppress the records. The State produced the records to Crump's attorney when Crump was still represented by counsel.[8] And during the Court's colloquy with Crump regarding his decision to represent himself, the Court warned Crump that, as a pro se defendant, he would not be entitled to receive the hospital records. Crump did not object, and in fact conceded that he had "checked with the law library" and determined not to seek to be permitted to review the hospital records.[9] The records were also admitted into evidence at trial without objection from Crump, and Crump stipulated to their authenticity.[10] Because the hospital records were not favorable impeaching evidence and were not suppressed, the Court concludes that there was no Brady violation.

         (11) To the extent that Crump's Confrontation Clause argument differs from his Brady argument, we find it meritless. Crump does not identify a witness that he did not have the opportunity to confront, nor does he explain why admission of the hospital records, which he stipulated were authentic, violated the Confrontation Clause. Admission of hearsay statements does not violate the Confrontation Clause if the evidence falls within a firmly rooted hearsay exception or contains particularized guarantees of trustworthiness.[11] Crump does not suggest that the hospital records were not trustworthy, and they were admissible under a firmly rooted hearsay exception.[12]

         (12) Finally, Crump's claim that the State violated Superior Court Criminal Rule 16 also does not provide a basis for reversal. The State provided the hospital records to Crump's counsel. Crump conceded at his pro se colloquy that he could not review the records and later stipulated to their admissibility. We find no plain error with respect to the production or admission of the hospital records.

         The Internal Affairs Investigation

         (13) Crump's second argument on appeal is that the State violated his right to Brady material by failing to disclose to Crump that Keith Boris, one of the officers who investigated the stabbing, was later placed on administrative leave, and by calling Officer Boris's supervisor, rather than Boris, to testify at trial.

         (14) Officer Boris was a trainee on the Dover Police force when he and his field training officer, Corporal Mast, responded to the scene of the stabbing outside Irish Mike's and then to the hospital where Gross had been taken.[13] They spoke to witnesses and collected the knife after it was removed from Gross's back by hospital personnel.[14] Corporal Mast asked Gross who had stabbed her, and she identified Crump.[15] Officer Boris prepared the report of the stabbing investigation, but he did not testify at Crump's preliminary hearing or at trial. On or about January 11, 2018, approximately six months after the stabbing and approximately four weeks before Crump's trial began, Officer Boris was involved in an alleged drunken driving and hit-and-run incident. He was placed on administrative leave pending an internal affairs investigation. The Delaware State News reported the incident on January 16, 2018, approximately three weeks before Crump's trial. Corporal Mast, but not Officer Boris, testified at Crump's trial.

         (15) We conclude that there was no plain error. Even assuming that information concerning Officer Boris's arrest and an incomplete internal affairs investigation was favorable under Brady and that it was suppressed by the State, there was no prejudice. Evidence of Boris's arrest and investigation would not have been admissible for the purpose of impeaching Officer Boris, if he had testified, because he had not been convicted.[16] It also was not admissible for the purpose of impeaching Corporal Mast's testimony.[17]

         (16) Nor was it plain error for the State to call Corporal Mast but not Officer Boris. The State generally may select which witnesses to call during the presentation of its evidence.[18] It need not call witnesses whose testimony would be merely cumulative.[19] Corporal Mast was Officer Boris's supervising officer on the night of the stabbing and testified that he was with Officer Boris when Boris placed the knife into evidence packaging and every time Boris was speaking with witnesses.[20] It is not clear what non-cumulative testimony Officer Boris could have offered. Moreover, it appears that the police report that Officer Boris prepared was produced to the defense-if Crump wanted to call Officer Boris as a witness, he could have done so.

         Prosecutorial ...

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