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Darling v. State

Florida Court of Appeal, Third District

February 29, 2012

Damon DARLING, Appellant,
v.
The STATE of Florida, Appellee.

Page 575

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 576

Carlos J. Martinez, Public Defender, and Marti Rothenberg, Assistant Public Defender, for appellant.

Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, and Timothy R.M. Thomas, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

Before RAMIREZ, SUAREZ, and ROTHENBERG, JJ.

RAMIREZ, J.

Damon Darling appeals his conviction after a jury trial of manslaughter and aggravated assault. We affirm.

On July 1, 2006, Leroy LaRose drove to a Liberty City housing project to buy marijuana. He carried a revolver with him, because he previously had encountered gun fire when visiting the area. He exited his vehicle toward the location where he intended to buy marijuana, but his source was not at the location. During his walk, he was confronted from afar by someone who inquired regarding his purpose. From afar, both parties escalated the conflict by firing their weapons at each other. A bystander was killed during the shootout. Darling was later arrested, and went to trial before a jury on charges of: second degree murder of the bystander, with manslaughter as a lesser included offense; and attempted second degree murder of LaRose, with attempted manslaughter, aggravated assault and aggravated battery as lesser included offenses.

The defense contended Darling was not responsible for the deadly shooting because he fired in response to a perceived threat from the other shooter. The defense moved for dismissal before the trial, based upon " stand your ground" immunity. The trial court denied the motion, and consequently Darling was tried for the offenses. After trial, the jury found Darling guilty of manslaughter of the bystander, and aggravated assault of LaRose, and further, that he possessed a firearm in connection with the death of the bystander and discharged a firearm in connection with the aggravated assault.

The day after the jury verdict, an anonymous caller phoned defense counsel's office, and claimed that two jurors, who had not disclosed in voir dire they knew each other, were overheard stating their intent to convict regardless of the evidence. Defense counsel later received a second call, in which the caller identified himself and contended that he would testify to what he heard. Defense counsel filed a motion to interview the jurors, supported by an affidavit from his secretary who received the calls. The trial court denied the motion,

Page 577

together with defense's motion for new trial.

Although the defendant raises numerous claims of trial court error on appeal, we only address the following issues: 1) denial of Darling's " stand your ground" motion; 2) denial of Darling's motion to interview jurors; and 3) ...


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