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Reid v. State

Florida Court of Appeals, Fourth District

June 21, 2017

LEON REID, 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; Jeffrey R. Levenson, Judge; L.T. Case No. 08011866CF10B.

          Dan Hallenberg, Special Assistant Regional Counsel, Office of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel, Fourth District, West Palm Beach, for appellant.

          Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and Luke R. Napodano, Assistant Attorney General, West Palm Beach, for appellee.

          DAMOORGIAN, J.

         Leon Reid ("Defendant") appeals his convictions for first degree murder and attempted first degree murder. The Defendant and his co-defendant, Phillips Pierre, were jointly tried on a two count indictment on the same charges.[1] In this appeal, the Defendant argues that his convictions should be reversed because: (1) the trial court excluded the proffered testimony of two defense witnesses regarding an unrelated theft; (2) the prosecutor shifted the burden of proof to the Defendant during closing argument; (3) the trial court improperly denied the Defendant's motion to suppress the surviving victim's in-court and out-of-court identification of the Defendant; and (4) the trial court improperly allowed the surviving victim to testify that he identified the Defendant as one of the perpetrators in open court on four previous occasions.[2] We reject arguments (1) and (3) without further comment. As to the remaining points on appeal, we agree with the Defendant that the prosecutor improperly shifted the burden of proof to the Defendant during closing and also hold that it was error to allow the surviving victim to testify that he identified the Defendant as the shooter in open court on four previous occasions. Furthermore, we conclude that these errors were harmful. Accordingly, we reverse the Defendant's convictions and sentence and remand for a new trial.

         The State's theory of the case was that the victims were in possession of a stolen car. The car's owner along with several other individuals, including the Defendant and co-defendant, drove to the victims' location to retrieve the vehicle. There, while brandishing firearms, the Defendant and the co-defendant confronted both victims. A physical struggle ensued between all four individuals. During the struggle, the Defendant shot and killed one victim, and shot and severely injured the other victim.

         The defense's theory of the case was that the stolen car's owner, William Tibe, and another individual, committed the charged crimes during an attempt to retrieve the stolen car. To advance this theory, the defense sought to discredit the State's eyewitnesses by suggesting that law enforcement improperly influenced or encouraged the witnesses to offer evidence implicating the Defendant and co-defendant.

         The State's Closing Argument

         The Defendant argues that the prosecutor's closing argument improperly shifted the State's burden of proof by inviting the jury to return a guilty verdict based upon the Defendant's failure to call William Tibe as a witness. To support his argument, the Defendant identified the following statements made by the prosecutor during his rebuttal argument:[3]

[Defendant's counsel] actually said it's William Tibe. He said William Tibe could have been the person. You've heard a whole lot about William Tibe. You heard from [co-defendant's counsel] in opening statement about William Tibe-Mr. Tibe is going to tell you all about this and Mr. Tibe is going to tell you all about that.
Now, the burden of proof is on the State, I have to prove my case, Leon Reid, Phillips Pierre. But the Defense, though they have no burden, as you have seen in this case can call witnesses, and they did . . . . They could have called William Tibe. . . . They absolutely could have called William Tibe. They have the same availability to him as I do . . . .
They could have called him, but they didn't. And yet, they tell you, [Defendant's counsel] tells you, he could have been the one. Really? If he's so important, [co-defendant's counsel] said that Detective Toyota kept going back to him, he's square one, he went back to Mr. Tibe, he went back to Mr. Tibe, [co-defendant's counsel] went on and on about Mr. Tibe, and said you're going to hear from Mr. Tibe. [Co-defendant's counsel] told you all these things Mr. Tibe was going to tell you; and yet, you've heard none of them. . . .
That's his promise, he said you're going to hear from him. And then in closing, to get up again and say this is William Tibe's involvement, and William Tibe was wearing a burgundy skully? Follow the burgundy skully, [Defendant's counsel] said it, Ms. Rhodus said it, follow the burgundy skully. Where the heck is it? Who wore it? Is it the only burgundy skully? Is that it? Is there only one white t-shirt ...

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