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DeJesus v. State

Florida Court of Appeals, Fourth District

August 16, 2017

JOSEPH DeJESUS, 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; Robert E. Belanger, Judge; L.T. Case No. 562012CF003432A.

          Leonard S. Feuer of Leonard Feuer, P.A., West Palm Beach, for appellant.

          Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and Mitchell A. Egber, Assistant Attorney General, West Palm Beach, for appellee.

          FORST, J.

         Appellant Joseph DeJesus ("Appellant") appeals the trial court's final judgment adjudicating him guilty of grand theft and burglary. We write solely to address Appellant's challenge as to whether the trial court properly denied his motion for judgment of acquittal on both counts.[1] As discussed below, we reverse the trial court's denial of Appellant's motion and vacate the judgment.

         Background

         The State charged Appellant with grand theft and burglary of a dwelling. According to the State, Appellant burglarized the victim's home, stealing numerous pieces of property from her. The jury returned a verdict of guilty on both counts. The trial court sentenced Appellant on the grand theft charge to five years in prison and, on the burglary count, to ten years in prison to be followed by five years' probation. The two sentences were to run concurrently.

         At trial, the State's chief evidence was Appellant's historical cell site data, which was able to track Appellant's general movements. The State showed that on the date of the burglary, Appellant drove 103 miles from his home to within a few miles of the victim's home. A detective, relying on the cell site data, explained the data could track Appellant's location to "within seven miles" of the burglary.

         The State also admitted another key piece of evidence: a still image from a surveillance video showing Appellant and another person walking away from a white Ford Edge towards a dumpster five days after the burglary.[2]The picture showed Appellant walking a few feet in front of the other person, who was carrying a white garbage bag. Law enforcement later determined that the garbage bag contained items stolen from the victim's home, as well as a Sports Authority bag which did not belong to the victim. Appellant's fingerprints were found on the Sports Authority bag, but not on the stolen items. Moreover, none of the stolen items were found within the Sports Authority bag.

         Recordings of Appellant's jail phone calls were also put into evidence. In the calls, Appellant read the allegations in the information to his girlfriend and broadly talked about the lack of evidence against him. Appellant also talked about how he got a new haircut, and that nobody liked it. The State later hinted that Appellant got the haircut to avoid identification as a suspect in the burglary.

         After the State presented its case in chief, Appellant argued the evidence was insufficient to convict and moved for a judgment of acquittal. The trial court denied the motion. Appellant now appeals the denial.

         Analysis

         "A trial court's ruling on a motion for judgment of acquittal is reviewed de novo to determine whether the evidence is legally sufficient to support the jury's verdict." State v. Konegen, 18 So.3d 697, 698 (Fla. 4th DCA 2009) (quoting State v. Burrows, 940 So.2d 1259, 1261 (Fla. 1st DCA 2006)). "It is well settled that, when reviewing a judgment of acquittal, the appellate court must apply the competent, substantial evidence standard and 'consider the evidence and all reasonable inferences from the evidence in ...


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