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Dabbs v. State

Florida Court of Appeals, Fourth District

June 7, 2017

WILLIAM PAUL DABBS, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF FLORIDA, Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit, Palm Beach County; Samantha Schosberg Feuer, Judge; L.T. Case No. 11CF012022AMB.

          Carey Haughwout, Public Defender, and Siobhan Helene Shea, Assistant Public Defender, West Palm Beach, for appellant.

          Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and Georgina Jimenez-Orosa, Assistant Attorney General, West Palm Beach, for appellee.

          Forst, J.

         Appellant William Dabbs appeals his convictions for first-degree murder, fleeing or attempting to elude law enforcement, and aggravated assault with a firearm of a law enforcement officer. We affirm three of Appellant's arguments without comment.[1] However, we find merit in Appellant's argument related to discovery violations at the beginning of the trial and hold that the trial court reversibly erred by not granting a mistrial. We therefore reverse for a new trial.

         Background

         Appellant was charged with killing his co-worker, and for crimes stemming from his flight from the scene. Appellant did not dispute that he killed the victim, and instead relied on a claim of self-defense. Part of this theory of defense was that the firearm used to kill the victim was brought to the scene by the victim himself, which Appellant wrestled from the victim after the latter had aimed it toward Appellant. In his opening statement, Appellant's attorney implied that this gun was one of two or three guns known to be owned by the victim.

         The morning after opening statements and the first two witnesses' testimony, Appellant brought to the court's attention a possible discovery violation on the part of the State. Apparently, the State had been surprised by Appellant's theory that the gun was one of the victim's known guns and had, overnight, acquired various documents and secured a witness which would, together, establish the current location of all of victim's known guns. This evidence was intended to conclusively show that the gun used in the crime-which had been recovered by law enforcement-could not be one of the victim's own.

         Appellant argued that he was procedurally prejudiced by this new evidence because, had he known of it, he would have made a different opening statement with a different theory of defense. The trial court held a Richardson[2] hearing and determined that there was a discovery violation, but that the violation was not willful and that the violation was trivial. The court also indicated it recognized that Appellant was procedurally prejudiced, and Appellant argued that the remedy should be a mistrial. However, after a brief recess, the court changed its mind and determined that there was no procedural prejudice based on the Second District's holding in Stone v. State, 547 So.2d 657 (Fla. 2d DCA 1989). As such, the documents were admitted into evidence and the witness was allowed to testify.

         The jury convicted Appellant of all counts against him, and he appealed.

         Analysis

         Whether a Richardson hearing is properly conducted is reviewed de novo, but the rulings on each of the required prongs are reviewed for an abuse of discretion. Goldsmith v. State, 182 So.3d 824, 827 (Fla. 4th DCA 2016).

         When a possible discovery violation is raised to the trial court, "the court must conduct a Richardson hearing to inquire about the circumstances surrounding the state's violation of the discovery rules and examine the possible prejudice to the defendant." Jones v. State, 32 So.3d 706, 710 (Fla. 4th DCA 2010). Part of this analysis requires determining whether a violation "had a prejudicial effect on the opposing party's trial preparation." Id. (quoting McDuffie v. State, 970 So.2d 312, 321 (Fla. 2007)). Prejudice exists "if there is a reasonable probability that the defendant's trial preparation or strategy would have been materially different had the violation not occurred." Cox v. State, 819 So.2d 705, 712 (Fla. 2002) (quoting Pomeranz v. State, 703 So.2d 465, 468 (Fla. 1997)). ...


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