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State v. Riley

Superior Court of Delaware

August 20, 2019

EUGENE RILEY, Defendant.

          Reargument Heard: August 20, 2019

         Defendant's Motion to Suppress Evidence (DNA Search Warrant) Granted.

          Gregory R. Babowal, Esquire and Kevin B. Smith, Esquire of the Department of Justice, Dover, Delaware; attorneys for the State of Delaware.

          Alexander W. Funk, Esquire of Curley Dodge & Funk, LLC, and Thomas D. Donovan, Esquire of the Office of Defense Services, Dover, Delaware; attorneys for Defendant.


          Hon. William L. Witham, Jr. Resident Judge.


         The Court announced its decision in open court and this opinion constitutes the Court's written decision in the matter of Defendant Eugene Riley (hereinafter "Defendant") and his Motions to Suppress Evidence. The evidence in question is a buccal swab conducted by law enforcement on May 14, 2018, after Justice of the Peace Court #7 (hereinafter "JP Court") signed a search warrant seeking DNA evidence from Defendant.

         After the Court had initially decided the matter, the Defendant, pursuant to Superior Court Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e), filed a Motion for Reargument. Upon reconsideration, the Court granted the Defendant's motion because it found the State had misrepresented, albeit unintentionally, a dispositive fact for which the Court, in part, based its decision.

         Today, the Court intends to resolve the matter and accordingly the Court's June 20, 2019 order is hereby vacated.

         After considering the parties' motions, oral arguments, including the State's clarification of the material fact in question, and the record in its entirety, including the record for today, the Court finds that the search warrant lacks the required nexus between Defendant's DNA and a crime and is therefor invalid. The Court also finds that the Defendant's DNA was not seized subject to a valid search incident to an arrest.

         Accordingly, and for the reasons that follow below, the Defendant's Motion to Suppress is GRANTED.


         On May 13, 2018, Jameir Vann-Robinson (hereinafter "Victim") was shot and killed following a verbal altercation at 82 Mitscher Road in Dover, Delaware. Law enforcement officers responded to the scene of the shooting and located four (4) 9mm shell casings and six (6) .40 shell casings along the sidewalk and roadway in close vicinity to the scene at 106 Mitscher Road.[2]

         The subsequent investigation revealed that two suspects, Defendant and Ahmir Bailey (hereinafter "Defendant Bailey") had allegedly shot the victim at or near 82 Mitscher Road. The investigation also led law enforcement to discover one of the suspected handguns used in the shooting, along with magazines and other ammunition matching the kind and caliber of shell casings found at the scene during the execution of a search warrant at Defendant's residence.[3] On May 14, 2018, Defendant and Defendant Bailey were arrested.

         Subsequent to the search warrant being executed at Defendant's residence, Detective Stephen Boone (hereinafter "Det. Boone") of the Dover Police Department, (hereinafter "DPD"), applied for an additional Search Warrant from JP Court #7 that sought to collect a sample of Defendant's DNA. Det. Boone's Affidavit in support of the Search Warrant (hereinafter "Affidavit") stated the basis for its application, including information reciting his training and experience, basic facts of the case, and evidence seized as a result of the search warrant executed at Defendant's residence. The Affidavit also contained the following statement:

Affiant is requesting to secure a sample of [DNA] from [Defendant] for an analysis/comparison with a sample from the recovered .40 caliber M&P handgun, .40 caliber magazine loaded with 6 rounds of ammunition, box of 9mm ammunition, 9mm magazine with 6 rounds of ammunition [J and any other evidence seized relating to this incident that may contain [Defendant's] DNA.[4]

         After JP Court #7 approved the search warrant, Defendant's DNA was collected at 8:15 p.m. on May 14, 2018, a little less than twelve hours after Defendant's arrest. The DNA was analyzed and determined to match DNA recovered from the .40 caliber M&P handgun found at Defendant's residence.[5]


         On May 13, 2019, Defendant filed his Motion to Suppress seeking to suppress the seized DNA. The State's response, in opposition, was filed on May 16, 2019 and the Court heard oral arguments initially on May 30, 2019.

         During the suppression hearing, the following exchange took place between the Court and the State:

Court: The affidavit itself of probable cause seems to indicate in the last paragraph that the [- -]which can be inferred by the [judicial officer], that there was a DNA sample recovered from the [.]40 caliber M&P handgun, and the [.]40 caliber magazine loaded with [six] rounds of ammunition and boxed with 9 [mm] ammunition, a 9 [mm] magazine with six rounds of ammunition, that that apparently does refer to.
State: Correct, but that is the specific evidence found at the [Defendant's residence as established by the warrant.
Court: So I presume that it would be your position that the [judicial officer] can assume, based upon facts in the affidavit, that there was a DNA sample taken, which could reasonably be viewed as a basis for another DNA sample that can be gleaned from the ammunition and weapon seized at the apartment were [Defendant] was residing.
State: Exactly. And I believe that's why the officer put that specific information in there. A search warrant executed at this residence. That is the residence of the [D]efendant. Here's what's found at the residence, and goes forward from there.[6]

         This exchange echoed a representation made in not only the State's reply to Defendant's suppression motion, but also the Affidavit itself.[7]

         At the completion of the suppression hearing, the Court reserved its decision, in part, for two reasons. First, there remained a factual discrepancy regarding the method of extraction that law enforcement utilized when collecting Defendant's DNA collection.[8] Second, because Defendant had not been afforded the opportunity to address the State's argument regarding the lawfulness of DNA evidence collection pursuant to a valid search incident to arrest argument prior to the suppression hearing, the Court granted both parties additional time to submit supplemental memoranda on the issue.[9]

         On June 20, 2019, the Court, relying on the plain language of Det. Boone's Affidavit and the State's representations (written and oral) confirming that a DNA sample was collected from evidence seized at Defendant's residence, issued its decision and denied Defendant's suppression motion. Moreover, the Court, in its decision, relied heavily on the State's representation that a DNA sample had been collected from evidence seized from Defendant's home, thus confirming Det. Boone's representation in the Affidavit.[10]

         Also in its decision, the Court distinguished Defendant's case from State v. Campbell, where the affiant in that case had stated in his affidavit that it was possible to collect DNA evidence from the items sought in that search warrant.[11] Because the Court initially found JP Court #7's actions to be proper, and that Defendant's case was not about the recovery of possible DNA evidence, but actual recovery of DNA evidence, it did not reach a decision regarding the State's alternative argument that the DNA seizure was lawful pursuant to a valid search incident to arrest.[12]

         On June 27, 2019, and frankly to the Court's surprise, Defendant filed his Motion for Reargument. The Court received the State's response on July 5, 2019 and despite the State's opposition to certain assertions made by Defendant, it ultimately conceded that reargument should be granted. While it agreed with Defendant that the Court had misapprehended the facts of the case, the State did not admit it made a misrepresentation of material fact, not only at the suppression hearing but in its written reply to Defendant's motion. As a result of this new information, the Court was required to grant Defendant's motion, and did so on July 8, 2019. The reargument hearing was scheduled for July 22, 2019, and later re-scheduled for August 20, 2019.


         In his reargument motion, Defendant states that the Court made an incorrect factual interpretation of the allegations, including its interpretation of Det. Boone's Affidavit seeking Defendant's DNA. As previously stated, the State conceded Defendant's argument that the Court misapprehended its factual findings.[14] The State continues to assert, however, that the search warrant was still valid. In the alternative, the State contends again that Defendant's DNA was collected pursuant to a lawful search incident to arrest.


         Where the Superior Court Rules of Criminal Procedure do not provide a rule or procedure for a particular practice, that practice is governed by the Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure.[15] As such, a Motion for Reargument is governed by Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 59(e) (hereinafter "Rule 59(e)"). Rule 59(e) provides that a motion for reargument shall be served and filed within 5 days after the filing of the Court's opinion or decision.[16] The Court will grant a Motion for Reargument only where "the Court has overlooked a controlling precedent or legal principles, or the Court has misapprehended the law or facts such as would have changed the outcome of the underlying decision.[17] In order for the motion to be granted, the movant must "demonstrate newly discovered evidence, a change in the law, or manifest injustice."[18] A movant's reargument motion is not an opportunity to rehash arguments already decided by the Court or to present new arguments not previously raised.[19]

         Furthermore, in a motion to suppress challenging the validity of a search warrant, it is the defendant who bears the burden of establishing that the ...

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