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Romans v. State

Florida Court of Appeals, Fourth District

May 31, 2017

MATTHEW ROMANS, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF FLORIDA, Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit, Broward County; Barbara McCarthy, Judge; L.T. Case No. 12-7046 CF10A.

          Carey Haughwout, Public Defender, and Zainabu Rumala, Nora Gay, and Erika Follmer, Assistant Public Defenders, West Palm Beach, for appellant.

          Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and Jessenia J. Concepcion, Assistant Attorney General, West Palm Beach, for appellee.

          Levine, J.

         In this appeal, appellant claims the trial court erred in (1) excluding a character witness from appellant's workplace, (2) not instructing the jury on justifiable use of deadly force, (3) denying a motion for downward departure, and (4) imposing drug offender probation. We affirm the first two issues. As to the third issue, which raised two grounds for departure, we reverse as to one ground and remand for resentencing, and we affirm as to the other ground. Finally, we reverse the last issue with directions.

         Appellant and the victim were at a bar when appellant confronted the victim about an incident involving appellant's girlfriend. Appellant became belligerent, threatened the victim, and cursed at him. The victim moved to the other end of the bar. Appellant walked past the victim two times and pushed him both times. Appellant then left the bar.

         The victim stayed in the bar for another thirty or forty-five minutes before leaving. As he walked towards his car, appellant accosted the victim and punched him in the face. Appellant repeatedly punched the victim, causing him to fall, and continued to punch the victim while he was on the ground. The victim begged appellant to stop. The victim never threw a punch and did not do anything except try to stop the attack. After appellant left, the victim managed to drag himself back into the bar. The victim was taken by ambulance to the hospital. As a result of the attack, the victim sustained fractured orbital sockets, torn cartilage on three ribs, and a broken tooth, and was beaten so badly that blood came out of his ears.

         Appellant testified in his defense that the victim struck him in the face without provocation, causing appellant to fall. Appellant and the victim rolled around on the ground, and appellant hit the victim "a couple of times."

         The defense attempted to present testimony of a character witness from appellant's work who would testify to appellant's reputation for peacefulness in the community. The state argued the witness did not meet the foundation for reputation testimony because the witness knew appellant only in the workplace and did not know appellant's general reputation in the community. The trial court agreed and excluded the testimony as not sufficiently broad-based.

         The trial court instructed the jury on the defense of the justified use of non-deadly force. The jury found appellant guilty as charged of aggravated battery.

         Appellant moved for a downward departure sentence on the ground that the offense was committed in an unsophisticated manner and was an isolated incident for which he had shown remorse. The trial court found that the offense was an isolated incident and that appellant was remorseful. However, the court found that the victim's injuries demonstrated that this was not an unsophisticated crime. Specifically, the court stated:

However, I wanted to look at these pictures again, because these pictures clearly demonstrate - they are in evidence - that this ...

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