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Harris v. State

Supreme Court of Delaware

April 16, 2019

JORDAN O. HARRIS, Defendant Below, Appellant,
STATE OF DELAWARE, Plaintiff Below, Appellee.

          Submitted: February 8, 2019

          Court Below-Superior Court of the State of Delaware Cr. ID No. 1607020376 (K)

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


          James T. Vaughn, Jr. Justice.

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

         (1) The defendant below-appellant, Jordan O. Harris, filed this appeal from his convictions for Possession of a Firearm by a Person Prohibited ("PFBPP"), Possession of Firearm Ammunition by a Person Prohibited ("PABPP"), and other crimes. After careful consideration of the parties' arguments, we affirm the Superior Court's judgment.

         (2) The evidence presented at trial showed that, on the night of July 26, 2016, several members of the Delaware State Police Governor's Task Force went to the reported residence of a probationer (not Harris) in Milford with outstanding capiases. As the police approached, a 1988 Dodge Aries with two people inside pulled up to the residence. Harris was the driver. A police officer, who was wearing a tactical vest identifying her as a State trooper, and a probation officer approached the car and shone a flashlight inside to determine if one of the occupants was the probationer. The passenger looked back and then the car pulled way. The police officer switched the flashlight to strobe, but the car continued to drive away. The police officers, who were in three vehicles, activated their lights and sirens and followed the car.

         (3) As the police followed, the car sped up, ran a stop sign, failed to signal as it turned onto Church Street, and veered from side to side. Detective Christopher Donaldson, who had a police dog with him, saw Harris was reaching into the back seat with his right hand and rummaging around. Detective Donaldson suspected that Harris might be preparing to throw something out of the car. The car turned left, without signaling, onto a gravel road between two cornfields. After Detective Donaldson hit the car, it came to a stop.

         (4) Detective Donaldson and another officer approached the car with their guns raised and demanded that the occupants raise their hands. Both occupants initially raised their hands, but then Harris put his hands down and refused to raise them after being ordered to do so. Unable to see Harris' hands and fearing that he had a weapon, Detective Donaldson directed the police dog to apprehend Harris by biting him. Harris held onto the steering wheel and still refused to exit the car. Detective Donaldson pulled him out of the car, but Harris still refused to show his hands. Once Detective Donaldson could see both of Harris' hands and had subdued him, he ordered the police dog to release Harris.

         (5) After Detective Donaldson read Harris his Miranda rights, he was taken to the hospital for treatment of his dog bite wounds. The police officer who accompanied Harris to the hospital noticed that Harris was swaying at the scene, smelled of alcohol, and had glassy, bloodshot eyes. Harris could not recite the alphabet correctly and would not count backwards. The police officer obtained a search warrant for a blood sample. Harris' blood alcohol level was .06 and his blood tested positive for marijuana.

         (6) The police searched the path of the car chase and found a loaded .40 caliber black handgun. The police were unable to recover any fingerprints from the gun, but they did collect DNA. The swab from the handgun trigger contained DNA that was consistent with Harris' DNA. Harris was charged with PFBPP, PABPP, Tampering with Physical Evidence, Conspiracy in the Second Degree, Resisting Arrest, Driving a Vehicle While Under the Influence of Drugs, Driving Without a License, Fictitious of Cancelled Registration, Operation of an Unregistered Motor Vehicle, Failure to Stop at a Stop Sign, Stopping or Suddenly Decreasing Speed

          Without Giving a Proper Signal, Inattentive Driving, and two counts of No Turn Signal.

         (7) Before jury deliberations, the State dismissed the Conspiracy in the Second Degree, No Valid License, and Operation of an Unregistered Motor Vehicle charges. The jury found Harris guilty of all the remaining charges, except Tampering with Physical Evidence, Fictitious or Cancelled Registration, and Stopping or Suddenly Decreasing Speed Without Giving a Proper Signal. The Superior Court sentenced Harris to 25 years of Level V incarceration, suspended after 7 years for decreasing levels of supervision. This appeal followed. On appeal, Harris exercised his right to represent himself.

         (8) Harris argues that: (i) the flight, constructive possession, and unanimous verdict jury instructions as well as the stipulation that he was a person prohibited were confusing, speculative, and prejudicial; (ii) the Superior Court erred by failing to hold a hearing on a juror's admission that he ignored the admonition not to talk to anyone about the case during the trial; (iii) the Superior Court erred by allowing the admission of the wrong gun into evidence; (iv) the State concealed and tampered with evidence in violation of Brady v. Maryland;[1] (v) he was deprived of materials that he needed for this ...

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