FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE MOTION FOR REHEARING AND
DISPOSITION THEREOF IF FILED
appeal from the Circuit Court for Escambia County. Thomas V.
Thomas, Public Defender, and W. C. McLain, Assistant Public
Defender, for Appellant.
Jo Bondi, Attorney General, and Robert "Charlie"
Lee, Assistant Attorney General, for Appellee.
Williams appeals his first-degree murder conviction and his
resulting life sentence. He raises only one issue on appeal,
claiming the State's closing argument deprived him of a
fair trial. More specifically, he argues that the State's
argument comparing him and his codefendants to "a pack
of wolves" crossed the line and resulted in fundamental
error. We reject this claim.
March 2013, emergency workers responded to an apartment fire
and found an unconscious woman on the floor. The woman had
severe burns and also suffered "obvious blunt force
trauma to her head." She was pronounced dead at the
investigation led police to Williams. Williams admitted his
involvement, but he told police that his friend forced him to
go to the victim's apartment and help with the killing.
Williams explained that once at the apartment, he put the
victim in a chokehold, and he and the friend wrestled the
victim to the ground. Williams said he, the friend, and a
third person then began beating the victim with a hammer, a
pipe, and a crowbar. Then, Williams said, the friend lit the
victim's bed on fire.
jury convicted Williams of first-degree murder but acquitted
him of arson. It did so after hearing the following argument
during the State's closing, which Williams argues
deprived him of a fair trial:
Anthony Pressley, Kiesha Pugh, [and] Gregory
Williams[[*] all went to [the
victim's] apartment like a pack of wolves. And when [the
victim] opened the door and let them inside her home, this
defendant, Gregory Williams, pounced on her like prey. He
grabbed her in a chokehold when she turned her back, and as
she said, why are y'all doing this to me, she was
wrestled to the ground, she was beaten repeatedly, and she
was murdered viciously. And then her home was set on fire as
the three of them scurried off into the night unaware that
they were on video surveillance.
the entirety of the comment that Williams claims warrants a
new trial. He identifies no other part of the closing
argument that he considers improper, and he identifies no
other asserted error below.
is clearly improper for the prosecutor to engage in
vituperative or pejorative characterizations of a defendant
or witness." Gore v. State, 719 So.2d 1197,
1201 (Fla. 1998). Accordingly, courts have frequently found
arguments referring to defendants as animals to be improper.
See, e.g., Carrol v. State, 815 So.2d 601,
622 (Fla. 2002) (finding it improper to refer to defendant as
a "creature that stalked the night"); Bullard
v. State, 436 So.2d 962, 963 (Fla. 3d DCA 1983) (finding
it improper to refer to defendant as "this creature,
this thing"); Blunt v. State, 397 So.2d 1047,
1048 (Fla. 4th DCA 1981) (finding it improper to refer to
defendant and state that "[a]nimals belong in
cages"); cf. also Fabregas v. State, 829 So.2d