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Castillo v. State

Florida Court of Appeals, Third District

April 26, 2017

Eduardo Castillo, Appellant,
v.
The State of Florida, Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

         An Appeal from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County, Rodney Smith, Judge. Lower Tribunal No. 10-849-D

          Carlos J. Martinez, Public Defender, and Robert Kalter, Assistant Public Defender, for appellant.

          Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, and Linda S. Katz, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Before SUAREZ, C.J., and LAGOA and SCALES, JJ.

          LAGOA, J.

         Eduardo Castillo ("Castillo") appeals from his conviction and sentence for second degree murder with a deadly weapon. On appeal, Castillo raises two arguments. First, Castillo argues that the trial court erred in overruling defense counsel's objection to comments made by the State in closing argument. Second, Castillo argues that the trial court improperly reclassified his second degree murder conviction from a felony of the first degree to a life felony pursuant to section 775.087(1)(a), Florida Statutes (2015).

         With regard to the first argument, we find that the error was harmless, and affirm Castillo's conviction for second degree murder without further discussion. With regard to the second argument, we agree that the State failed to introduce any substantive evidence that Castillo had actual possession of a deadly weapon. We therefore conclude that the reclassification of Castillo's conviction to a life felony constitutes fundamental error and remand to the trial court for resentencing without reclassification under section 775.087(1)(a).

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         The State charged Castillo and his co-defendants by information with the second degree murder of Luis Rodriguez ("Rodriguez") in violation of section 782.04(2), Florida Statutes (2015). The information alleged that Rodriguez was killed by "BEATING AND/OR STRIKING HIM REPEATEDLY" and that "during the course of committing said offense, [Castillo] carried, used, or threatened to use a deadly weapon, to wit: A BAT AND/OR A STICK AND/OR A ROCK."

         At trial, the State presented the testimony of several witnesses who either witnessed or were involved in the attack. Joel Forcelledo ("Forcelledo") testified that on the night of January 7, 2010, he was working as a security guard at a nursing home when he heard screaming in a nearby parking lot. Forcelledo saw several individuals chasing one male who was running and fell down. When the victim fell, he was beaten with a bat but Forcelledo could not identify any of the attackers. Forcelledo called 911 and then rushed to aid the victim.

         T.L.[1] testified that on the night in question she witnessed Rodriguez running from a group of at least ten boys that were members of the Bout That Life ("BTL") gang.[2] At trial, T.L. identified "Teddy, " "Baby, " and "Young Money, " but she did not identify Castillo. T.L. saw "Teddy" slam Rodriguez to the floor and also saw "Baby" throw a rock at the victim. She further testified that the entire group of boys participated in hitting and kicking Rodriguez. When T.L.'s father screamed that the police were coming, the group dispersed, and T.L. went to the aid of Rodriguez.

         The State presented the testimony of two other witnesses who identified Castillo as participating in the attack on Rodriguez. Specifically, Daniel Salas ("Salas") [3] testified that on the night of January 7, 2010, he, Castillo, and others beat Rodriguez, and that during the beating, Castillo "grabbed [Rodriguez] by the shirt and started punching him in the face." Salas did not testify that Castillo used a stick or other weapon.

         Rodriguez's friend, Mauricio Ordonez ("Ordonez"), [4] also testified at trial. Ordonez testified that on the night of January 7, he and Rodriguez were at Riverside Elementary School when they heard the name of the gang, BTL, being screamed behind them.[5] A group of people, including Castillo, began to chase him and Rodriguez, so they ran. At trial, Ordonez identified "Baby, " "Castillo, "[6]"Teddy, " "Alex, " and "Young Money" as part of the group that chased him on the night of January 7. On direct examination, Ordonez testified that he did not see any part of the beating because he became separated from Rodriguez while they were running and he hid in a building. The State then elicited testimony from Ordonez concerning a prior inconsistent statement-specifically, that on January 8, 2010, the day after the beating, Ordonez contacted the police and told them that he saw Rodriguez "get beat to death." Ordonez testified that his January 8 statement to the police was not true, that he had not seen any part of the beating, and that ...


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