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Stoner v. State

Supreme Court of Delaware

July 11, 2019

ARTHUR STONER, Respondent Below, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF DELAWARE, Petitioner Below, Appellee.

          Submitted: May 8, 2019

          Upon appeal from the Family Court Court Below: Family Court of the State of Delaware ID. No. 1711009911 (N)

          Kevin P. Tray, Esquire, Wilmington, Delaware for Appellant, Arthur Stoner.

          Sean P. Lugg, Esquire, Deputy Attorney General, Wilmington, Delaware for Appellee, State of Delaware.

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

          VAUGHN, JUSTICE:

         I. INTRODUCTION

         The appellant, Arthur Stoner, [1] appeals from a Family Court order finding him delinquent of Robbery in the Second Degree and Conspiracy in the Second Degree. He makes three claims on appeal. First, he contends that the finding that he committed Conspiracy in the Second Degree violated his right to due process because it was based on a finding that he violated an uncharged subsection of the conspiracy statute. Second, he contends that there was insufficient evidence to find him delinquent of Robbery in the Second Degree. In particular, he contends that the Family Court misconstrued a part of the robbery statute, 11 Del. C. § 831(b), which provides that "the phrase 'in the course of committing theft' includes any act which occurs . . . in immediate flight after the attempt or commission of the theft." Third, he contends that 11 Del. C. § 512(1), the subsection of the conspiracy statute under which he was found delinquent, is unconstitutionally vague because it does not expressly include the requirement of an overt act.

         The State agrees that the Family Court erred when it found Stoner delinquent for violating an uncharged subsection of the conspiracy statute. According to the State, "The trial court effectively convicted Stoner of an offense for which the State had not charged him. His adjudication of second degree conspiracy should be vacated."[2] Because the State concedes error and agrees that Stoner's adjudication of delinquency as to Conspiracy in the Second Degree should be vacated, we accept its concession and have no further need to discuss Stoner's first contention. For this same reason, Stoner's third contention, that 11 Del. C. § 512(1) is unconstitutionally vague, need not be addressed. We need address only Stoner's contentions relating to the Family Court's finding of delinquency for Robbery in the Second Degree.

         II. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On November 16, 2017, at approximately 7:30 p.m., Jessica Halloran exited a restaurant in Trolley Square in Wilmington. She saw "two guys" across the street "hanging by the Fed Ex box."[3] Although one of the them, later identified as Tayshaun Gibbs, was facing her, the other, later identified as Arthur Stoner, was facing away from her. As she crossed the street toward them, Gibbs kept looking up and down from his phone, which illuminated his face "pretty clearly."[4] Thinking this was odd, Halloran intentionally made direct eye contact with him. As soon as she did that, he looked down again. Gibbs was wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and blue jeans. Although Halloran never saw Stoner's face, she saw that he was wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and khaki pants.

          Within a few seconds of Halloran walking past them, Gibbs grabbed a wristlet bag Halloran was carrying, ripping it off the hook strap. Both Gibbs and Stoner immediately ran off, with Stoner slightly ahead, in the direction from which Halloran had come, eventually leaving her sight. Although there was never any communication from either Gibbs or Stoner to Halloran or between Gibbs and Stoner themselves before or during the robbery, Halloran later testified that they appeared to be together.

         The police were notified, and shortly thereafter, Gibbs and Stoner were stopped approximately ten blocks away by Corporal David Simmons of the Wilmington Police Department. Approximately twenty minutes after the robbery, Halloran was transported to the area, and she identified Gibbs and Stoner as the two individuals who had robbed her. Recognizing his face, she specifically identified Gibbs as the one who took her wristlet. She identified Stoner based on his clothing. She also identified her wristlet, which had been found near where Gibbs and Stoner were stopped.

         At trial, following the conclusion of the State's case, Stoner moved for judgment of acquittal on the robbery charge. Citing the lack of any communications between the two accused and the only evidence pertaining to Stoner being his "mere presence at the scene" and his flight, Stoner argued that there was "simply no evidence that the presence or the actions of [Stoner] indicate[d] that he was aiding, soliciting, requesting, [or] facilitating the crime of robbery."[5] The court denied the motion, explaining that there was "sufficient evidence to substantiate the State's claim."[6]

         Following closing arguments, the court rendered its verdict. After noting the requirements for Robbery in ...


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