Submitted: March 23, 2019
Adams (argued), Brian J. Robertson, and Cynthia Hurlock,
Deputy Attorneys General, Department of Justice, State of
Delaware, 820 N. French Street, 7th Floor, Wilmington,
Delaware, Attorneys for the State.
Patrick J. Collins, Esquire, Collins & Associates, 716 N.
Tatnall Street, Suite 300, Wilmington, Delaware, Attorney for
HONORABLE ANDREA L. ROCANELLI, JUDGE
Thompson was shot and killed on February 27, 2016. Defendant
Reginald Waters was arrested on March 29, 2016 in connection
with the homicide. The evidence presented by the State at the
bench trial included historical Cell Site Location
Information ("CSLI") which the State argued placed
Defendant in the vicinity of the homicide. In addition to
CSLI, the State presented direct evidence and indirect
evidence which placed Defendant at the scene of the homicide.
Defendant was convicted of the lesser-included offense of
Manslaughter, as well as related charges. Before Defendant
was sentenced, the Supreme Court of the United States issued
its decision in Carpenter v. United States which
requires a finding of probable cause for the issuance of a
search warrant to obtain CSLI. The State did not obtain a
search warrant based on probable cause to obtain CSLI for
Defendant. Thus, Defendant has filed a motion for new trial,
which is opposed by the State.
Defendant's arrest, a grand jury issued an indictment on
June 6, 2016 for Murder in the First Degree, Possession of a
Firearm During the Commission of a Felony, Possession of a
Firearm by a Person Prohibited, and Possession of Ammunition
by a Person Prohibited. Defendant's trial was originally
scheduled for September 2017, but was continued to January
2018 upon Defendant's motion.
week prior to the January 2018 trial date, Defendant's
then-counsel filed a motion to withdraw at Defendant's
request. Defendant waived his speedy trial rights and the
Court granted the motion on January 9, 2018. Defendant's
current counsel was appointed ("Defense Counsel")
on January 12, 2018.
was scheduled to begin May 10, 2018. Defense Counsel
requested that the State produce the subpoena used to obtain
records and subscriber information for Defendant's cell
phone. On May 7, 2018, Defense Counsel renewed his request.
The State did not respond. On May 9, 2018, Defense Counsel
requested another continuance of the trial which the Court
was selected on May 10, 2018. Before the jury was sworn,
Defendant requested a bench trial. Pursuant to Superior Court
Criminal Rule 23(a), Defendant's request was submitted in
writing and the State consented. The Court addressed
Defendant personally regarding his constitutional right to a
trial by jury. The Court was satisfied that Defendant's
waiver was knowing, intelligent, and voluntary. Therefore,
the Court approved Defendant's waiver and the case
proceeded to a non-jury trial before this judicial officer
from May 14, 2018 through May 23, 2018.
conclusion of the evidence and after closing arguments,
Defendant was found guilty by the Court of the
lesser-included offense of Manslaughter, as well as guilty of
Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony,
Possession of a Firearm by a Person Prohibited, and
Possession of Ammunition by a Person Prohibited. The Court
ordered a pre-sentence investigation.
22, 2018, the United States Supreme Court issued
Carpenter v. United States The holding in that case
prompted Defense Counsel to renew Defendant's pretrial
request for the documents relied upon by the State in
obtaining Defendant's cell phone records. Defense Counsel
notified the Court that Carpenter may be applicable
to Defendant's case. Sentencing was continued.
Eventually,  all of the relevant applications,
affidavits, and Court Orders used to obtain evidence for the
Defendant's cell phone were unsealed and produced to
December 17, 2018, in light of the newly discovered evidence
and the Carpenter decision, Defendant filed a motion
for a new trial pursuant to Superior Court Criminal Rule 33.
After briefing, the parties presented oral argument. The
record was closed on March 23, 2019.
Motion for New Trial may be granted upon a motion by the
Defendant "if required in the interest of
justice." If the trial was without a jury, the Court
may "vacate the judgment if entered, take additional
testimony and direct the entry of a new
judgment." A motion for a new trial is within the
sound discretion of the trial court. Viewing the evidence in the
light most favorable to the State,  a motion for new trial will
not be granted "if there was some probative evidence
upon which a verdict of guilty could reasonably be
based." The Court must refrain from granting the
motion unless the verdict "appears to be against the
great weight of the evidence."
Carpenter v. United States, the United States
Supreme Court addressed the question of "whether the
Government conducts a search under the Fourth Amendment when
it accesses historical cell phone records that provide a
comprehensive chronicle of the user's past
movements." Given its "deeply revealing" and
"retrospective" nature, the Supreme Court held that
an individual maintains a legitimate expectation of privacy
in the record of his physical movements as captured through
historical cell phone location information and, therefore,
Government acquisition of CSLI records constitutes a search
within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. Accordingly,
the Supreme Court declared that the Government must generally
obtain a warrant supported by probable cause before acquiring
particular concern to the Carpenter Court was that
the Government acquired the CSLI records pursuant to a court
order issued under a federal statute that simply required the
Government to show "reasonable grounds" for
believing that the records sought "were relevant to an
ongoing investigation." The Supreme Court explained
that the required assertion of relevance to an ongoing
investigation "falls well short of the probable cause
requirement for a warrant." Rather, the Court
required "some quantum of individualized suspicion"
to justify a search under the Fourth Amendment.
decision of [the Supreme] Court construing the Fourth
Amendment is to be applied retroactively to all convictions
that were not yet final at the time the decision was
rendered." A criminal conviction in Delaware
becomes final at the time of sentencing.Carpenter, a decision of the Supreme Court
construing the Fourth Amendment, was issued on June 22, 2018.
Defendant's conviction has not become final because
sentencing has not taken place. Accordingly,
Carpenter retroactively applies to Defendant's
case. Moreover, Defendant has not waived his