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Kruse v. State

Florida Court of Appeals, Fourth District

May 31, 2017

RONNIE TRAVIS KRUSE, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF FLORIDA, Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit, St. Lucie County; Elizabeth A. Metzger, Judge; L.T. Case No. 562015CF 001201A.

          Carey Haughwout, Public Defender, and Richard B. Greene, Assistant Public Defender, West Palm Beach, for appellant.

          Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and Richard Valuntas, Assistant Attorney General, West Palm Beach, for appellee.

          Klingensmith, J.

         Appellant Ronnie Travis Kruse was charged with battery on a person over the age of sixty-five, and was convicted of the lesser included offense of battery. He argues that his counsel was ineffective for failing to request a self-defense jury instruction. We agree, and reverse his conviction and remand the case for a new trial.

         In May 2015, appellant had an altercation with the victim outside of the victim's home. According to the victim, appellant came from across the street and started screaming at him, accusing him of either selling or giving drugs to a present third person. The victim claimed that appellant grabbed him, threw him into the bushes, and broke his jaw by hitting him in the face.

         Victim did not contact legal authorities about the incident, but they came to him two days later after appellant called a detective whom he knew in order to inform him that he had hit the victim during the altercation. According to the third party, appellant put his finger near victim's face, causing victim to initiate physical contact by swiping appellant's finger away.

         At trial, appellant described what happened as follows:

[APPELLANT]: [Victim] grabbed my hand, this, my right hand, so I physically with my left hand grabbed his shirt, he grabbed this part of my arm, we ended up in a shoving match almost. He was trying to push me, I, I guess out of the yard or into the bush cause we stumbled into a hedge.
[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: And what did you do after that?
[APPELLANT]: I kinda panicked cause I didn't know what he was gonna do, I apparently hit him twice, I wasn't even sure cause I didn't even think about it, it was, it just, ya' know I guess when . . .
[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: (INDISCERNIBLE) . . .
[APPELLANT]: When fear takes over you fight for your life and ...

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