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State v. Green

Superior Court of Delaware

October 14, 2019

STATE OF DELAWARE,
v.
DYRON GREEN, Defendant.

          ORDER

          CALVIN L. SCOTT JR. JUDGE.

         AND NOW, TO WIT, this 14th day of October, 2019, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED as follows:

         Before the Court is Defendant Dyron Green's Motion for Judgment of Acquittal. On July 10, 2019, a jury convicted Defendant of Driving a Vehicle while under the Influence of Alcohol or with a Prohibited Alcohol Content. The Court has reviewed Defendant's motion, the State's Response, and Defendant's reply. For the following reasons, Defendant's motion is DENIED.

         Background

         On April 23, 2018 around 1:20 a.m., Delaware State Police Trooper Abrenica observed a vehicle stopped in a turn lane. Trooper Abrenica activated his emergency lights, approached the driver, and discovered that the driver was unconscious with the truck in drive and his foot on the break. That driver was Defendant, Dyron Green. Trooper Abrenica returned to his vehicle and requested backup. Although Trooper Abrenica's vehicle sat behind Defendant's with its emergency lights flashing for approximately four minutes, Defendant did not acknowledge Trooper Abrenica. While Trooper Abrenica waited in his vehicle for backup, the truck slowly rolled forward, out of the turn lane, and through an intersection. Trooper Abrenica pursued and engaged his siren; as Defendant drove away, Trooper Abrenica observed a beer can fall out of the back of Defendant's truck. Defendant pulled into a parking lot where Trooper Abrenica initiated another traffic stop.

         When Trooper Abrenica interacted with Defendant he noticed that Defendant smelled of alcohol, had bloodshot eyes, and had a flushed face. Defendant refused to take field sobriety tests. Trooper Abrenica transported Defendant to the police station for a blood draw. At the station Trooper Abrenica observed the phlebotomist draw Defendant's blood. After testing for blood alcohol content, the Director of the Delaware State Crime Lab concluded that Defendant's blood from April 23, 2018 had a blood alcohol content of .17.

         A jury trial in this matter occurred on July 9-10, 2019. On July 10, 2019, the jury found Defendant guilty of Driving a Vehicle while under the Influence of Alcohol or with a Prohibited Alcohol Content, a violation of 21 Del. C. § 4177(a).

         Parties' Assertions

         On July 12, 2019, Defendant filed Defendant's Motion for Judgment for Acquittal. The State responded to Defendant's motion on August 6, 2019. Defendant filed a Reply to the State's Response on August 23, 2019.

         In his motion, Defendant argues that the State's evidence was insufficient to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt because the blood sample obtained from Defendant was improperly collected and processed. According to Defendant, this "improper procedure" affected the accuracy of the test results, resulting in a reading of more ethanol than was present in Defendant's blood. Defendant contends that the State failed to show compliance with the manufacturer's protocol. Defendant further argues that the opinion of the State's expert witness-Director of the Delaware State Crime Law, Julie Willey-that Defendant's blood sample was properly mixed fails to meet the standard of "reasonable scientific probability." Finally, Defendant argues that the State's evidence-without blood test results-is insufficient for a finding of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

         In response, the State contends Defendant's argument about compliance with the blood tube manufacturer's instructions is untimely because that argument is a foundational question that governs the evidence's admissibility. The State argues that Defendant waived his right to challenge the evidence's foundation because he agreed, on the record, to the admission of the blood test result, failed to object to the admission of the blood test result during the trial, and reserved the right to challenge only the accuracy of the results. Next, the State argues that the jury instructions did not require the State to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the tested blood was "properly collected and stored." In the alternative, the State contends that a reasonable jury could have found the State proffered sufficient evidence to prove that the tested blood was properly collected and stored. Finally, the State argues that, even without the blood test results, there was sufficient evidence for a jury to find Defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

         In his reply, Defendant argues that the State laid an insufficient foundation for the admission of the blood test results. Defendant further argues that the jury instructions, as given, could have led the jury to misunderstand the State's burden of proof regarding the blood collection process.

         Standard of Review

         The Court will grant a motion for acquittal, brought pursuant to Delaware Superior Court Criminal Rule 29, where there is insufficient evidence to sustain a verdict of guilt.[1] Evidence is sufficient when a rational trier of fact could "have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt."[2] The "evidence, together with all legitimate inferences therefrom, must be considered from the point of view most favorable to the State."[3] The Court "does not distinguish between direct and circumstantial evidence of defendant's guilt."[4]

         Discussion

         Defendant argues that the blood test results introduced by the State constitute insufficient evidence to support a conviction for driving under the influence.[5]Defendant's arguments focus on the admissibility, reliability, and weight of the evidence. Defendant has not, and indeed cannot, claim that this Court erred in admitting the blood test results.[6] The Court finds, however, that Defendant's arguments come close to crossing this line.

         Defendant relies on Clawson v. State, Hunter v. State, and State v. Fountain to support his argument that the State failed to provide a proper foundation for the admission of the blood test results. In Clawson v. State, the Delaware Supreme Court reviewed the trial judge's admission of test results from an Intoxilyzer machine over defendant's timely objection.[7] In Hunter v. State, the Supreme Court reviewed the trial judge's admission of defendant's blood test results over defendant's pretrial motion to suppress and timely objection to admission of such evidence at trial.[8] In State v. Fountain, this Court granted defendant's motion to suppress, holding that the State did not lay a proper foundation for admission of the blood test results because the phlebotomist failed to use normal procedures.[9]

         Clawson, Hunter, and Fountain all deal with issues of admissibility of scientific evidence raised either upon timely objection from defense counsel or in a pretrial motion to suppress. Each case clarifies that the State must show the user complied with the manufacturer's instructions in order to lay a proper evidentiary foundation for scientific test results.[10] In each case, the defendant ...


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