Conviction Upheld in Florida After Jury Read-Back Instructions Questioned

The jury is one of the cornerstones of the American justice system. Though most cases end with a plea deal rather than a trial, these decisions are often made on the basis of what the jury is likely to do. Juries are only allowed to be exposed to certain things during the trial, and the rules around what juries are allowed to see, examine, and ask for are very specific. Your skilled St. Petersburg violent crimes criminal defense attorney can help you to understand what evidence the jury may be allowed to see in your case. This can help you decide together whether or not you should go to trial or accept a plea offer. The rules for what juries can see and hear don’t end when the trial is over. There are specific laws around what juries can have access to during deliberation as well. This case involves just those issues.

Facts of the Case

The defendant here was charged with aggravated battery with great bodily harm upon a woman and her fiancé. Specifically, the defendant is alleged to have stabbed the woman with a knife that injured the victim badly enough to require stitches. During the trial, the woman who was stabbed testified that the defendant was the person who stabbed her with the knife.

During the jury deliberations, the jury sent a note to the judge. The note asked what the victim’s answer was when she was asked who stabbed her. In response, the court located the transcript of the trial testimony and read that portion back to the jury. The defense objected to the read-back, and argued that the jury should have been told to rely on their memory of the testimony. The trial court overruled the objection of the defense and allowed the court reporter to read back the victim’s response to the question “who stabbed you?” The jury resumed deliberating and found the defendant guilty of simple battery of the woman and her fiancé.

Appeals Court Decision

The standard of review for looking at whether a read-back is appropriate is an abuse of discretion standard. In other words, the appeals court will only disturb the trial court’s decision if they believe there was an abuse of discretion. The defendant argues that since the jury did not ask for a read-back, it was improper for the trial court to allow it. The appeals court here cited the criminal procedure law to explain their decision upholding the original verdict.

The Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure allow read-backs when jurors request more instructions or ask for the testimony to be read or played back to them. Though in this case the jury did not use the specific words “read-back,” the appeals court here held that they were in essence asking for a read-back and it was not an abuse of discretion for the court to order one. Thus, the defendant’s conviction was upheld.

Contact an Experienced St. Petersburg Criminal Defense Attorney Today!

Defendants that have been charged with a crime need a knowledgeable attorney on their side to help defend them and make sure that the court follows proper procedures. The experienced St. Petersburg criminal defense attorneys at Hanlon Law Firm will defend you zealously against any charges. Call our offices at (727) 897-5413 or contact us online to speak with our attorneys about your case.

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