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Adams v. State

Supreme Court of Delaware

September 13, 2019

TARRON ADAMS, Defendant Below- Appellant,
STATE OF DELAWARE, Plaintiff Below- Appellee.

          Submitted: July 3, 2019

          Court Below-Superior Court of the State of Delaware Cr. ID 1709014557 (K)

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



         Upon 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, Tarron Adams, was indicted for possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony ("PFDCF"), drug dealing (cocaine), drug dealing (Alprazolam), two counts of possession of a firearm by a person prohibited ("PFBPP"), receiving a stolen firearm, second degree conspiracy, and possession of drug paraphernalia. Prior to trial, the State nolle prosequied one count of PFBPP and the one count of second degree conspiracy. The parties stipulated to the fact that Adams was a person prohibited from possessing a firearm at the time of his arrest. Following a three-day jury trial, the Superior Court declared a mistrial at the defense's request after the court learned several jurors had failed to follow the court's instructions during jury deliberations.

         (2) On September 5, 2018, a different jury found Adams guilty of PFBPP, two lesser-included offenses of possession of a controlled substance, receiving a stolen firearm, and possession of drug paraphernalia. The jury found Adams not guilty of PFDCF. The Superior Court sentenced Adams to ten years of Level V incarceration followed by decreasing levels of supervision. This is Adams' direct appeal.

         (3) On September 20, 2017, the State applied for a search warrant of Adams' home. The affidavit of probable cause the State submitted in support of the application alleged that a confidential informant had made two controlled buys of crack cocaine from Adams at his residence. The State executed the warrant on September 22, 2017. The evidence presented at trial fairly reflects that the search led to the discovery of 1.4 grams of crack cocaine, 14 Alprazolam pills, digital scales, approximately four hundred dollars in cash, and a handgun in the master bedroom of Adams' residence.

         (4) Detective Talansky Jean testified he took possession of the drugs, scales, and cash that were located on the top of the dresser in the master bedroom and packaged the drugs for further chemical testing. That testing revealed the drugs consisted of approximately 1.4 grams of cocaine and 14 Alprazolam pills. The cocaine and Alprazolam pills were found in separate plastic bags. Neither drug was individually packaged for sale. Detective Jean admitted the State did not process the two plastic bags for fingerprints.

         (5) Detective Brock Dean testified he and another officer located a handgun and a magazine in a shoebox in the closet of the master bedroom. Detective Dean also testified the officers found another magazine in a laundry basket in the master bedroom. Although the handgun and the magazines were processed for fingerprints and DNA, Detective Dean could not recall whether the results implicated Adams.

         (6) Detective Jordan Rollins testified he interviewed Adams after Adams waived his Miranda rights and a video recording of the interview was published to the jury. In his statement to Detective Rollins, Adams admitted to selling beer and cigarettes for extra money. He also admitted the cocaine found in the master bedroom was his and that he had been using cocaine recreationally since 1993. After initially claiming his wife had acquired the handgun, Adams confessed he had received the handgun from a man named Tommy Lightfoot who lived in Richmond, Virginia. Detective Rollins testified that he had been able to confirm the handgun had been reported stolen.

         (7) The defense argued that while Adams may have possessed the drugs located at his residence, he was not a drug dealer. Further, trial counsel argued Adams never possessed the handgun that was found in the bedroom he shared with his wife. The defense asserted there was little, if any, evidence to suggest Adams was dealing drugs or possessed the handgun while dealing drugs. The defense pointed to the lack of physical evidence tying Adams to the drugs and handgun and argued that Adams' mere proximity to the handgun was not enough to convict him of the charges related to the handgun. The defense also argued that Adams claimed responsibility for acquiring the handgun in an effort to protect his wife from prosecution.

         (8) On appeal, Adams' counsel filed a brief and a motion to withdraw under Supreme Court Rule 26(c). Adams' counsel asserts that, based upon a conscientious review of the record, there are no arguably appealable issues. Counsel informed Adams of the provisions of Rule 26(c) and provided him with a copy of the motion to withdraw and the accompanying brief. Counsel also informed Adams of his right to supplement counsel's presentation. Adams responded with points for the Court's consideration, which counsel included with the Rule 26(c) brief. The State has responded to the Rule 26(c) brief and argues that the Superior Court's judgment should be affirmed.

         (9) When reviewing a motion to withdraw and an accompanying brief under Rule 26(c), this Court must be satisfied that the appellant's counsel has made a conscientious examination of the record and the law for arguable claims.[1] This Court must also conduct its own review of the record and determine "whether the appeal is ...

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