Appellate Law: Each week Florida’s Appellate Courts release their new opinions. We read them so you don’t have to (unless you want to (you don’t want to, do you?)). Here’s a summary of what happened this week:
Ray Jackson v. State of Florida: Florida Supreme Court affirms death penalty sentence.
Florida Supreme Court denied death-row defendant’s Rule 3.850 motion alleging ineffective assistance of counsel, as well as his motion for DNA testing of hairs found at the victim’s bruial site six months after the victim went missing. The Court noted that it is the defendant’s burden to explain how the requested DNA testing will exonerate him, with reference to specific facts about the crime. This case is also notable for the defendant’s use of the term “spizzot” to refer to a “spot”.
Dean Rockmore v. State of Florida: Florida Supreme Court affirms robbery with a firearm conviction.
Florida Supreme Court affirmed a conviction of robbery with a firearm where defendant’s theory of defense was that he abandoned the stolen property prior to threatening or using force. The Court found that the defendant was not entitled to a special jury instruction on abandonment (see Peterson v. State) because there was no evidence presented to “break the chain” between the defendant’s taking the property and his use of force.
In RE: Standard Jury Instructions in Criminal Cases: Florida Supreme Court issues new jury instruction for dealing in stolen property (fencing).
Here’s the new instruction: “If you find that the State has proven both theft and dealing in stolen property, you must then decide whether both offenses were in connection with one scheme or course of conduct. “One scheme or course of conduct” means that there was no clearly disjunctive interval of time or set of circumstances which meaningfully disrupted the flow of the defendant’s conduct meaningful disruption of the defendant’s conduct by either an interval of time or a set of circumstances.”
Maranda Martin v. State of Florida: Speak up so the camera can hear you.
Appellate Court affirmed the denial of defendant’s motion to suppress her statements in police interview where it found that defendant’s statement “I want a good lawyer” was inaudible on the video recording of the police interview, and therefore supported the officer’s assertion that they did not hear the request.
State of Florida v. Blake Jones: Both statements and evidence gathered following an illegal stop should be suppressed.
Appellate court held that the trial court should have suppressed both the defendant’s statements and any physical evidence following an illegal stop.
Second DCA Opinions: Nothing noteworthy this week.
Juan Mendez v. Hampton Court Nursing Center: Court upholds nursing home arbitration agreement.
Appellate Court found an arbitration agreement signed by the resident’s son was valid, even though the son did not have a valid power-of-attorney at the time of signing. The Court held that the resident was an intended third-party beneficiary to the arbitration agreement, and was thus bound by its terms.
Ken Constant v. State of Florida: Improper statements by prosecutor overturn conviction.
Appellate Court reversed conviction for robbery with a firearm and ordered a new trial due to prosecutor’s improper statements during jury selection and in closing. Prosecutor asked jury during jury selection if they could convict based on a single witness’ testimony, and in closing told the jury that he believed the defendant was guilty as well as that they had “promised” to convict the defendant based on a single witness’ testimony if they found the witness credible.
Brian Piggott v. State of Florida: Reckless driving instruction should have been read to jury as lesser included offense.
Appellate Court held that the trial court should have given jury the jury instruction for reckless driving as a permissive lesser included offense to the charge of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. The defendant was charged with striking the victim with his car whilst trying to abscond with some hedge trimmers. Importantly, the Appellate Court held that it was error to not include a reckless driving instruction as a permissive lesser included offense of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon when the alleged deadly weapon was an automobile.
Appellate Court held that Miller v. Alabama should apply retroactively to two convictions for first degree murder where the defendants were both under 18 years of age at the time of the crimes. Note: Florida Appellate Courts are currently divided over this issue, and that conflict is currently before the Florida Supreme Court in the appeal of Falcon v. State.