FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE REHEARING MOTION AND, IF
from the Circuit Court for Polk County; J. Dale Durrance,
L. Dimmig, II, Public Defender, and Robert D. Rosen,
Assistant Public Defender, Bartow, for Appellant.
Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and Susan D.
Dunlevy, Assistant Attorney General, Tampa, for Appellee.
Allen Brown, III, challenges his judgment and sentence
imposed after a jury returned a verdict finding him guilty of
felony battery based on a second or subsequent offense, a
violation of section 784.03(2), Florida Statutes (2015). Mr.
Brown admitted striking the victim but claimed that he acted
in self-defense. Because the trial court erred in excluding
Mr. Brown's proffered testimony concerning his knowledge
of specific acts of violence by the victim and his knowledge
of her reputation in the community for violence, we reverse
the judgment and sentence and remand for a new trial.
incident that gave rise to the charge occurred on January 6,
2016. Mr. Brown and the victim had previously enjoyed a
romantic relationship, but that relationship had ended before
the events in question. The victim testified that after an
argument with Mr. Brown at his residence, she was preparing
to leave and had gone inside to say goodbye to their dog. But
before she was able to react, Mr. Brown was on top of her and
began hitting her. She testified that Mr. Brown hit her three
times; he finally stopped when the dog bit him. The victim
denied that she was carrying a knife or a razor.
Brown took the stand in his own defense. He did not deny
hitting the victim, but his version of the events leading up
to the fracas was substantially different from hers.
According to Mr. Brown, the victim was angry with him because
she believed that he had been "slandering" her. Mr.
Brown explained to the victim that someone had misconstrued
his remarks. With that, the victim went into his residence
and began taking things from his nightstand and throwing them
into her purse and backpack. When Mr. Brown followed the
victim into the residence and asked her what she was doing,
the victim stood up and replied, "I'm going to tell
you what I'm going to do." Mr. Brown testified that
upon hearing the victim's reply he saw an X-Acto knife in
her hand, became scared, and "flipped out." It was
only after Mr. Brown heard the victim's threat and saw
the knife in her hand that he "flipped out" and
began hitting the victim.
point in Mr. Brown's testimony, defense counsel attempted
to elicit testimony from Mr. Brown regarding his knowledge of
specific acts of violence by the victim and her reputation in
the community for violence. The prosecutor promptly objected
that such evidence was inadmissible because it amounted to an
improper attack on the victim's character. The prosecutor
also argued that such evidence was inadmissible because Mr.
Brown had already established his self-defense claim with his
testimony about the victim's threat and the act of
brandishing the X-Acto knife. Defense counsel responded that
the evidence was admissible to show that Mr. Brown had a
reasonable apprehension of acts of violence at the hands of
the victim. After these initial arguments, defense counsel
proffered Mr. Brown's testimony concerning his knowledge
of both specific prior acts of violence by the victim and her
reputation in the community for violence. Further argument by
counsel followed the proffer. After considering the
parties' arguments, the trial court ruled that it would
exclude the proffered testimony because it amounted to an
attack on the victim's character. The trial court also
reasoned that because Mr. Brown had already established his
claim of self-defense with his testimony about the
victim's threat and the brandishing of the knife, the
proffered testimony was "irrelevant, immaterial, and
the direct examination of Mr. Brown resumed, he testified
that he had struck the victim because he was scared and was
trying to get away from her. During closing argument, defense
counsel argued for a not guilty verdict on the theory that
Mr. Brown had acted in self-defense. The jury rejected the
self-defense claim and returned a verdict finding Mr. Brown
guilty as charged. The trial court sentenced him to ten years
in prison as a habitual felony offender. This appeal
of evidence is within the discretion of the trial court and
will not be reversed unless there has been a clear abuse of
that discretion." Ray v. State, 755 So.2d 604,
610 (Fla. 2000). In general, evidence concerning a
victim's character is inadmissible. Grace v.
State, 832 So.2d 224, 226 (Fla. 2d DCA 2002). However,
in cases where a claim of self-defense is raised,
evidence of the victim's reputation is admissible to
disclose his or her propensity for violence and the
likelihood that the victim was the aggressor, while evidence
of prior specific acts of violence by the victim is
admissible to reveal the reasonableness ...