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Smith v. State

Superior Court of Delaware

June 28, 2019

EUGENE SMITH, Defendant Below, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF DELAWARE Plaintiff Below, Appellee.

          Submitted: March 18, 2019

          Appeal from the Court of Common Pleas.

          Frances S. Ratner, Esquire, Office of Defense Services, Wilmington, Delaware, for Appellant.

          Jillian L. Schroeder, Esquire, Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware, for the Appellee.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Charles E. Butler Judge.

         This is an appeal from the Court of Common Pleas. After a jury trial, Eugene Smith was convicted of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. He appealed both convictions to this Court, but a previous ruling of the Court determined that the disorderly conduct conviction was not appealable. We therefore examine here only the resisting arrest conviction. Finding Smith's claims unavailing, the Court affirms the verdict and sentence imposed by the Court of Common Pleas.

         I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On July 24, 2017, two Wilmington Police Officers responded to a call for help in the 900 Block of West 30th Street. There was a playground with a basketball court populated by ball players and families with children. Upon arrival, officers observed a parked SUV occupied by a female passenger, with the door ajar. Mr. Smith was standing six to seven feet from the vehicle, pointing in its direction and screaming obscenities. Smith continued screaming obscenities, even as the officers approached him.

         When it was apparent that Smith was arguing with his girlfriend, one officer stayed with the girlfriend and the other walked Mr. Smith away from the vehicle in an effort to deescalate the situation. Instead, Smith screamed more obscenities at the police officer accompanying him. Smith finally calmed down and provided his name to the officer, but then he refused to supply his birth date.

         The officer went to his patrol car to determine Smith's birthdate. While in his patrol vehicle, Smith approached the officer in an aggressive manner. The officer exited the vehicle and told Smith to step back and place his hands behind his back. In response, Smith told the officer that the officer "couldn't handle him." The officer then attempted to handcuff Smith, resulting in a struggle to bring him under control. In the course of his resistance, Smith wound up in the passenger seat of the patrol car, at which point the officer forcibly removed him from the vehicle.

         The struggle continued until the officer was on top of Smith and both of them were on the ground. Once finally handcuffed, Smith was transported to the hospital as a precautionary measure, where it was determined that he had a rib contusion.

         The jury found Mr. Smith guilty of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. The Court sentenced him to a $100 fine for disorderly conduct. For the resisting arrest count, Smith received a jail sentence, suspended for probation. Upon initial review, this Court determined that the disorderly conduct sentence to a $100 fine is not appealable.[1] Therefore, the only issues remaining available for review are certain evidentiary rulings made by the trial court relating to the resisting arrest charge.

         II. ISSUES RAISED ON APPEAL

         Smith argues that the trial court abused its discretion in prohibiting any testimony regarding a Use of Force Report, or the lack thereof, in association with his arrest. Smith also says the trial court unfairly ...


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