Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

State v. Montgomery

Superior Court of Delaware

May 22, 2019

STATE OF DELAWARE
v.
VERNON MONTGOMERY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION DENYING DEFENDANT'S RULE 33 MOTION FOR NEW TRIAL FOR TAINTED JURY

          ERIC M. DAVIS, JUDGE

         Defendant Vernon Montgomery moves (the "Motion") for a new trial asserting that his Fifth, Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment rights to a fair trial were prejudiced by a juror's purported "improper remarks and improper statements/jokes." The Court finds that, despite the claims in the Motion, the jury was not tainted and Mr. Montgomery was not prejudiced by any purported jury misconduct. Therefore, the Motion is DENIED.

         I. PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         The State charged Mr. Montgomery with: (i) Robbery First Degree; (ii) Possession of a Firearm during the Commission of a Felony; (iii) Wearing a Disguise; (iv) Possession of a Firearm by a Person Prohibited; and (v) Possession of Ammunition by a Person Prohibited. Mr. Montgomery is acting as his own attorney. Mr. Montgomery did not deny that he committed the offenses. Instead, Mr. Montgomery relied upon the affirmative defense of duress.

         After selecting the jury, Alternate Juror #2 delivered a note to the bailiff. The note provided that one of the jurors, Juror #5, made a statement during the break that "[Mr. Montgomery] is letting all the men go because he is guilty."[1] The Court read the note in open court and discussed it with the State's attorney and Mr. Montgomery.

         The Court then conducted an individual voir dire with each juror, beginning with Alternate Juror #2. Alternate Juror #2 relayed her information. Juror #5 indicated that he did not hear anyone make a statement regarding Mr. Montgomery's guilt. Juror #3 provided that someone may have something about guilt but was not sure who said it or in what context. Juror #12 believed someone may have said something about guilt in a joking fashion and said that it was hoped that the trial would not last six weeks. Jurors #1, #2, #4, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10, #11 and Alternate Juror #1 said they did not hear anyone mention anything about Mr. Montgomery's guilt or innocence. The Court did replace Juror #4 with Alternate Juror #1 as Juror #4 was suffering from an affliction that caused her to fall asleep during the trial.

         The Court questioned each juror as to whether they had formed a conclusion as to the guilt or innocence of Mr. Montgomery. All indicated that they had not. In addition, the Court asked each juror if they would keep an open mind until the conclusion of the presentation of evidence, argument and final instructions. All the jurors indicated that they would. The Court then discussed the matter with Mr. Montgomery and the State's attorney. After this discussion, the Court, exercising its discretion, determined not to release any of the remaining jurors.

         The jury returned a verdict, finding Mr. Montgomery guilty on all charges. Mr. Montgomery thereafter filed the Motion. The State filed its State's Response to Defendant's Motion for New Trial Pursuant to Rule 33 (the "Response") on May 3, 2019. The Court has determined that no hearing is necessary after reviewing the Motion and the Response.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Superior Court Criminal Rule 33 provides that "[t]he court on motion of a defendant may grant a new trial to that defendant if required in the interest of justice...."[2] The Court has discretion to grant a new trial but new trial grounds must have been asserted during the preceding trial.[3] Without demonstrated prejudice, a new trial is not warranted.[4] But where a defendant is substantially prejudiced such that the right to a fair trial is violated under the Sixth Amendment, a new trial is warranted.[5] The right to a fair trial is "a fundamental liberty secured by the Fourteenth Amendment."[6] "One accused of a crime is entitled to have his guilt or innocence determined solely on the basis of the evidence introduced at trial, and not on grounds of official suspicion, indictment, continued custody, or other circumstances not adduced as proof at trial."[7]

         When investigating whether a courtroom circumstance has prejudiced a jury, "the question must be not whether jurors actually articulated a consciousness of some prejudicial effect, but rather whether an unacceptable risk is presented of impermissible factors coming into play."[8]

         III. CONTENTIONS

         A. Mr. Montgomery's Contentions

         Mr. Montgomery contends that his Fifth, Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment rights to a fair trial were prejudiced by the purported statements of Juror #5 and others about Mr. Montgomery's guilt prior to hearing the evidence at trial. Mr. Montgomery claims the conduct is egregious ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.