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Wright v. State

Supreme Court of Delaware

June 6, 2019

DENEISHA WRIGHT, Defendant Below, Appellant,
STATE OF DELAWARE, Plaintiff Below, Appellee.

          Submitted: May 17, 2019

          Court Below-Superior Court of the State of Delaware Cr. ID No. 1701009508A

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



         After consideration of the brief and motion to withdraw filed by the appellant's counsel under Supreme Court Rule 26(c), the State's response, and the Superior Court record, it appears to the Court that:

         (1) The appellant, Deneisha Wright, was indicted on two counts of Murder First Degree, Attempted Robbery First Degree, three counts of Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony ("PFDCF"), and Possession of a Firearm by a Person Prohibited ("PFBPP"). A jury found Wright guilty of one count of Murder First Degree, Attempted Robbery First Degree, and two counts of PFDCF. After a separate bench trial following the jury trial, the Superior Court found Wright guilty of PFBPP. The jury found Wright not guilty of one count of murder and the related count of PFDCF. The Superior Court sentenced Wright to a total term of imprisonment of life plus nine years. This is Wright's direct appeal.

         (2) The charges arose from the shooting death of Charles Mays. The evidence presented at trial fairly reflects that in the early afternoon of January 14, 2017, Mays's pick-up truck crashed in Wilmington, and Mays was found unresponsive inside, with gunshot wounds to his legs. Mays was transported to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. A trail of blood led police officers from Mays's truck to a nearby apartment building. Surveillance video obtained from the apartment complex showed Braheem Mitchell (Wright's brother) and Kori Thomas (a friend of the family), exiting Apartment 1-A. Lisa Mitchell (Wright's aunt) then exited the apartment, where she lived with her daughter Sharnice Mitchell, and approached Mays's truck. While Lisa Mitchell was standing at the truck, a fourth person exited Apartment 1-A, stopped briefly behind a car, and then approached the passenger side of Mays's truck. As the truck pulled away, knocking Lisa Mitchell to the ground, the fourth person extended an arm toward the passenger door of the truck and shot Mays.

         (3) Lisa Mitchell testified that she purchased pills from Mays every morning, and that she arranged to meet Mays that morning. As she leaned down to give Mays the money for the pills, someone approached the truck, shooting a gun. Lisa Mitchell got knocked down as the truck began to drive away, and as she stood up, she saw that the shooter was Wright.

         (4) Ralph Mitchell, Wright's cousin, testified that he was at Apartment 1-A on the morning of January 14, 2017 and that Wright, Sharnice Mitchell, Latasha Brown (also known as "Brownie"), Kori Thomas, and Braheem Mitchell were also there. He testified that he heard the others plotting to have Lisa Mitchell call Mays to the apartment so that they could rob Mays of pills and money. He testified that he and Brownie watched from the apartment window and that he saw Wright fire four shots at Mays. On the surveillance video, Ralph Mitchell identified Braheem Mitchell and Kori Black as the first two people to leave the apartment, followed by Lisa Mitchell and then Wright.

         (5) Tyrell Simpson testified that he was in a romantic relationship with Wright for approximately one year in 2016-2017. He stated that around 12:30 p.m. on January 14, 2017, he and Wright were at their residence when Braheem Mitchell and Kori Black stopped by and Wright abruptly left with them. Then, in the evening of January 14, Simpson spoke with Wright on the telephone and "[s]he said she had done something dumb. . . . She had shot someone." Simpson also testified that about a week before the incident, he had heard Wright talking to Braheem Mitchell about robbing Mays because Mays had money from selling pills. Simpson testified under a plea agreement and cooperation agreement reached with the State in connection with unrelated charges.

         (6) When law enforcement located Wright approximately ten days after the shooting, she was wearing a jacket that the State suggested appeared similar to the jacket worn by the shooter in the surveillance video. Expert testing identified several particles that were consistent with gunshot residue on the jacket. Ballistics evidence indicated that a gun recovered by probation officers some time after the incident was the gun that killed Mays, but no link was established between Wright and the residence where the gun was found or its occupants.

         (7) The defense focused on questioning the credibility of the State's witnesses and suggesting that Brownie, who died before trial, was the shooter. Wright testified that she was not at Apartment 1-A on January 14, 2017, and that she did not attempt to rob Mays and did not shoot Mays. She testified that she was at the corner store at the time of the shooting. She further testified that Lisa Mitchell, Ralph Mitchell, and Tyrell Simpson each had conflicts with her that could have motivated them to provide false testimony against her. Aigner Neal, who had children with Wright's brother, and Marsha Mitchell, Wright's mother, testified that the shooter on the video looked like Brownie and not Wright. Robin Henry, who was Wright's cousin and Ralph Mitchell's sister, testified that a few days after Mays was shot, she drove Brownie on some errands. When Brownie went into a store, Henry discovered that a wallet that Brownie left on the seat was Mays's wallet.

         (8) The jury found Wright guilty of first-degree attempted robbery, felony murder, and the related PFDCF charges. The jury acquitted her of the intentional murder charge and the related PFDCF charge.

         (9) On appeal, Wright's counsel has filed a brief and a motion to withdraw under Supreme Court Rule 26(c). Wright's counsel asserts that, based upon a conscientious review of the record, there are no arguably appealable issues. Counsel informed Wright of the provisions of Rule 26(c) and provided her with a copy of the motion to withdraw and the accompanying brief. Counsel also informed Wright of her right to supplement counsel's presentation. Wright responded with points she wanted to present for the Court's consideration, which counsel ...

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