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Joyner v. State

Supreme Court of Delaware

April 18, 2019

RAMON JOYNER, Defendant Below, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF DELAWARE, Plaintiff Below, Appellee.

          Submitted: February 13, 2019

          Court Below: Superior Court of the State of Delaware I.D. No. 1502005446 (N)

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

          ORDER

          James T. Vaughn, Jr. Justice.

         On this 18th day of April 2019, upon consideration of the parties' briefs and the record on appeal, it appears that:

         (1) The appellant, Ramon Joyner, appeals from the Superior Court's denial of his motion for postconviction relief. He contends that the Superior Court erred by rejecting his claim that he received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial. Two of the charges for which Joyner stood trial were Attempted Rape in the First Degree and Rape in the Second Degree. The claimed ineffectiveness was trial counsel's failure to object to testimony of a forensic nurse examiner when the nurse read verbatim a narrative account of the incident given to her by the victim of the alleged sexual assault. Joyner argues that many portions of this narrative were not related to medical diagnosis or treatment and, therefore, were not admissible under Delaware Rule of Evidence 803(4), the hearsay exception for statements made for medical diagnosis or treatment. He also argues that the narrative was cumulative, served only to bolster the testimony of the complaining witness, and was unfairly prejudicial under Delaware Rule of Evidence 403. For the reasons that follow, we reject Joyner's contentions and affirm.

         (2) In addition to Attempted Rape in the First Degree and Rape in the Second Degree, Joyner was charged with Kidnapping in the First Degree, Strangulation, and Malicious Interference with Emergency Communications. All of the charges arose from Joyner's alleged assault upon an acquaintance, Amanda Brooks, [1] on February 8, 2015, at a hotel in Newark, Delaware.

         (3) The trial transcript reflects that Brooks, her mother, and two friends went to a casino in Wilmington on February 7, 2015.[2] Brooks saw Joyner at the casino and struck up a conversation with him. Brooks and Joyner were acquainted with each other and had each other's cell phone numbers. Early the next morning, around 6:00 a.m., Brooks and Joyner decided to leave the casino in separate cars and go out for breakfast. After picking up food at a drive-thru restaurant, Brooks and Joyner went to Joyner's nearby hotel room, where Brooks fell asleep after eating breakfast.

         (4) Brooks testified that when she woke up awhile later, Joyner was gone and her ID and car keys were missing. She texted and called Joyner multiple times with no answer. Joyner finally responded, sending her a text expressing his desire to have sex with her. Brooks eventually agreed to have sex with Joyner for the purpose of obtaining her keys. According to Brooks, when Joyner returned to the room with the keys, he stated that she needed to "live up to her end of the bargain" and have sex with him.[3]

         (5) Brooks testified that she did not want to have sex with Joyner, but that he was standing between her and the hotel room door and "something about his stance let her know that he wasn't going to give up easily."[4] Consequently, Brooks picked up the room phone and dialed the front desk to ask for help, telling the woman who answered the phone, "I need someone in the room."[5] At that, according to Brooks, Joyner became angry, snatched the phone from her hand, and hit her with a closed fist. Brooks testified that Joyner continued to hit her as he held her down and buried her face in a pillow, which suffocated her, and that he pulled down her pants and touched her buttocks and vagina with his hands. According to Brooks, Joyner then took his arm off the back of her neck and used his hand to try to guide his penis into her vagina.

         (6) Brooks testified that she attempted twice to flee the hotel room. The first time, she made it out of the room and to her car before Joyner caught her and dragged her back to the room where he continued to beat and choke her. When Brooks attempted to escape the second time, Joyner stopped her, ripped the phone cord from the base of the phone, tied her arms with that cord, and tied her feet with another cord. Joyner eventually left the room, and Brooks was able to get loose from the cords. She left the room and sought help from a maintenance worker. Hotel staff called 911. Shortly thereafter, police arrived, encountered Joyner in the hotel lobby, and placed him under arrest.

         (7) Later that morning, Brooks went to Christiana Hospital where she was examined by a forensic nurse examiner. At trial, the nurse read, without objection, from the medical history she prepared from the information Brooks gave her at the hospital. This medical history included Brooks's narrative statement which described the entire event in substantial conformity with Brooks's in-court testimony, except that the medical history indicated that Brooks said that Joyner had penetrated her vagina with his finger. At trial, Brooks did not testify that such penetration had occurred. At the request of Joyner's counsel, the nurse's written record of what she had been told by Brooks was not admitted as an exhibit.

         (8) Joyner testified at trial. He described a much different scenario. He testified that when he returned to the room after Brooks woke up, the couple decided to shower together. According to Joyner, Brooks got out of the shower, saying that she had to get her facial cleanser, but instead she ran out of the hotel room with his jacket, which contained his money and ID. Joyner testified that he chased Brooks and stopped her before she made it to her vehicle. He testified that he found his money in her purse, that she then struck him, and that he struck her back. He denied attempting any sexual contact.

         (9) Whether or not Joyner penetrated Brooks with his finger was relevant to the charge of Rape in the Second Degree. That count of the indictment alleged, in pertinent part, that Joyner "did intentionally engage in sexual penetration with [Brooks], without her consent."[6] At Joyner's request, the Superior Court agreed to instruct the jury on Unlawful Sexual Contact, which does not require penetration, [7]as a lesser-included offense of Rape in the Second Degree.

         (10) The jury acquitted Joyner of Rape in the Second Degree but convicted him of the lesser-included offense of Unlawful Sexual Contact in the First Degree. The jury also convicted him of Kidnapping in the First Degree, Strangulation, and Malicious Interference with Emergency Communications. The jury could not reach a verdict on Attempted Rape in the First Degree, and the State entered a nolle prosequi on that charge.

         (11) By acquitting Joyner of Rape in the Second Degree and convicting him of the lesser-included offense of Unlawful Sexual Contact in the First Degree, the jury resolved in Joyner's favor the one material discrepancy between the nurse's testimony concerning what she was told by Brooks and Brooks's testimony at trial- whether Joyner ...


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