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Delaware Supreme Court overturns Robbery conviction because Defendant was not allowed to call character witnesses in his defense.

On Leap Day 2008 the Delaware Supreme Court in the case of Manna v. State overturned Mark Manna’s convictions of Robbery 1st Degree, Wearing a Disguise During the Commission of a Felony and Conspiracy 2nd Degree. The court ordered the reversal because the Judge “abused his discretion” at Manna’s jury trial in Superior Court by refusing to allow Manna to present any character witness who would have testified as to Manna’s reputation for being an honest and truthful person. The Court held that the preclusion of the witnesses was such that it significantly prejudiced Manna and denied him a fair trial. The Delaware Supreme Court cited to a 1901 Delaware case to illustrate that it has long been a cornerstone of criminal law in the State of Delaware that a Defendant may offer character evidence in his own defense. In overturning the convictions the Court stated, “While the number of the character witnesses is subject to the discretion of a trial judge, precluding Manna from calling any witnesses at all to prove a relevant and pertinent character trait constituted an abuse of discretin that warrants a new trial.”

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