JEFFERSON V. STATE, 264 SO. 3D 1019
KEY TERMS (Meta data):
“Ammoright, Stand your Gound, Second Amendment, United States, Gun, immunity, prima facie claim, self-defense, criminal prosecution, trial court, pretrial, roommate, burden of proof, clear and convincing evidence, entitlement, asserting, disprove, evidentiary burden, motion to dismiss, facie, Dictionary, facially, evidentiary hearing, courts, immunity from prosecution, ordinary meaning, use of force, cross-examination, speeding, proven”
OUTCOME OF THE CASE:
Petition granted; order quashed.
In a criminal information, the State charged that petitioner committed second-degree murder of his roommate on September 2, 2017. Petitioner filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.190(b), asserting Stand Your Ground immunity from prosecution because he acted in justifiable self-defense, as defined in section 776.012, in stabbing his roommate. Specifically, the motion asserted that petitioner and his roommate “frequently had alcohol infused arguments” and that during these arguments his roommate regularly armed himself with a baseball bat and threatened to kill petitioner. Because of his roommate’s behavior, petitioner kept a knife on his bedside table. As for the day of the events underpinning petitioner’s second-degree murder charge, petitioner claimed that he awoke in his bedroom to discover his intoxicated roommate’s hand in petitioner’s pants pocket, where petitioner kept his money. This triggered a physical struggle between petitioner and his roommate. Petitioner claimed that his roommate was on top of him when they both reached for petitioner’s knife. He further claimed that he feared for his life as they struggled over the knife. The struggle continued throughout the residence. While in the living room area, the roommate threatened to throw boiling hot tea at petitioner. The struggle made its way to the backyard, where the men lost their balance and fell to the ground. In the process of falling to the ground, petitioner gained control of the knife and stabbed his roommate, causing the roommate’s death. He claimed that he went to the front of the house and flagged down several people to call law enforcement and medical personnel. The trial court heard argument on the procedure that should be employed pursuant to the newly amended section 776.032 at a Stand Your Ground evidentiary hearing. Petitioner’s counsel argued that section 776.032(4) requires only that petitioner raise a prima facie claim of self-defense immunity. Because, petitioner’s counsel argued, petitioner’s motion raised a facially sufficient prima facie claim, the burden was on the State to overcome that claim by clear and convincing evidence. The State responded that the filing of the motion to dismiss pursuant to section 776.032 put petitioner’s credibility at issue. Accordingly, the State asserted, petitioner must testify under oath and be subject to cross-examination by the State at an evidentiary hearing. This prompted the trial court to ask petitioner’s counsel the following question: “If it’s the defendant who makes the assertion, why isn’t that a waiver of immunity in its cross-examination?” Petitioner’s counsel explained that before section 776.032 was amended in 2017, the accused had the burden of proving his entitlement to Stand Your Ground immunity at a hearing on the motion to dismiss. This burden, petitioner’s counsel explained, left many with a choice between a statutory right to immunity and a constitutional right against self-incrimination. According to petitioner’s counsel, by amending section 776.032 in 2017 to place the burden on the State “to overcome” a criminal defendant’s prima facie claim of immunity, the legislature eliminated a criminal defendant’s evidentiary burden to prove his entitlement to Stand Your Ground immunity from criminal prosecution. Petitioner’s counsel responded that petitioner would not testify at the hearing and that he would rely on the four corners of the motion unless the State was prepared to present witnesses. He subsequently filed a petition for writ of prohibition in our court.
Brief History of Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law:
- See Little v. State, 111 So. 3d 214, 216 n.1 (Fla. 2d DCA 2013) (explaining that “the supreme court has consistently held” that prohibition “is an appropriate vehicle to review orders denying motions to dismiss criminal prosecutions based on immunity”).
- Horn v. State, 17 So. 3d 836, 837 (Fla. 2d DCA 2009), reviewing trial court’s denial of Stand Your Ground immunity under certiorari jurisdiction, noting “The court write to discuss and approve of the trial court’s procedures in determining that petitioner was not entitled to immunity under section 776, Florida Statutes (2007); See also Pearlstein v. Malunney, 500 So. 2d 585, 587 (Fla. 2d DCA 1986)
- Kasischke v. State, 991 So. 2d 803, 807 (Fla. 2008) (quoting Kephart v. Hadi, 932 So. 2d 1086, 1089 (Fla. 2006)). there’s additional text to support our rejection of the State’s interpretation. Specifically, by amending section 776.032 to add subsection (4), the legislature merely required that a prima facie claim of self-defense immunity from criminal prosecution be raised by the defendant at a pretrial immunity hearing.