final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.
Appeal from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County No.
09-14217, Rodney Smith, Judge.
J. Martinez, Public Defender, and Jonathan Greenberg,
Assistant Public Defender, for appellant.
Jo Bondi, Attorney General, and Jonathan Tanoos, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee.
SUAREZ, LAGOA and SCALES, JJ.
Beckman, the defendant below, appeals his conviction and
sentence for first degree premeditated murder, claiming that
he is entitled to a new trial based on erroneous evidentiary
rulings by the lower court and improper closing argument by
the prosecutor. The defendant also argues that Florida's
sentencing scheme for juveniles convicted of capital crimes,
which comports with Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460
(2012), violates Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S.
466 (2000). See § 921.1401, Fla. Stat. (2015).
Finding no abuse of discretion as to any of the alleged trial
errors and concluding that the defendant's sentence was
constitutional, we affirm for the following reasons.
April 12, 2009, the then seventeen-year-old defendant shot
and killed his father with a shotgun in the bathroom of their
home, while his father was taking a shower. The shotgun had
two barrels, each with a safety. At the time of the shooting,
one safety was on and one was off. Each chamber was loaded
with live ammunition. The shotgun trigger required two to
four pounds of pressure to fire. The defendant fired the
shotgun once, while standing just four and half to six feet
from his father, who was standing in the shower tub taking a
shotgun pellets went through the shower curtain, hitting the
father in the neck and face. The pellets lacerated his
tongue, fractured his jaw, broke or displaced his teeth and
lodged inside his head, causing hemorrhaging in the brain. He
bled to death after several minutes.
a minute of the shooting, the defendant called out, "Oh
my God, call 911" loud enough for a neighbor, Frank
Alfonso, to hear. During the 911 call, the defendant told the
police dispatch, "Please, come quickly, I accidentally
shot my father." He then stated that he was going
hunting with his father and that he had gone into the
bathroom to show his father a shotgun, which accidentally
went off even though the safety was on.
arriving at the scene, the police searched the home and found
the defendant's book bag in a bedroom. In the book bag
was a spiral notebook, the first page of which was labeled
"The List" at the top. Underneath the title were
ten names that were each preceded by a Roman numeral III, IV
or V. The father's name was at the top of the page and
was the only name with a roman numeral V next to it. Other
names on the list included those of the defendant's
teachers and classmates.
defendant was arrested and charged by indictment with
first-degree premeditated murder with a firearm that
discharged and caused death, and unlawful possession of a
firearm while engaged in a criminal offense. The State's
theory was that the defendant had a longstanding hatred for
his father and that he had intentionally shot and killed him.
The defendant admitted to shooting his father, but claimed it
was an accident.
in jail awaiting trial, the defendant shared a cell with
Michael Nistal, who claimed the defendant had told Mr. Nistal
about the shooting. According to Mr. Nistal, who gave a
statement to the police about his jailhouse conversations,
the defendant stated that he shot his father in the face with
the shotgun because he hated him and that he would have used
a knife had he not underestimated the circumstantial evidence
in the case. Mr. Nistal also claimed that the defendant kept
another list of names while he was in jail, which included
the names of fellow inmates and the defendant's
neighbors. Mr. Nistal claimed that the defendant told him
that he wanted to kill the neighbors because they were
potential trial witnesses.
trial, the court permitted the State to introduce The List
found in the defendant's book bag. The court also allowed
the State to present several of the defendant's
classmates and teachers, who testified that the defendant
told them why he had created The List, and as to how certain
people ended up being placed on The List. Several of these
witnesses testified that the defendant told them that he
hated his father and wanted him to die, even offering one
witness money if he would kill the defendant's father.
The court also permitted the State to elicit testimony,
through Mr. Nistal, about the second list the defendant
maintained while awaiting trial.
court excluded any evidence that the defendant suffers from
Asperger's syndrome, finding that his condition only goes
to diminished capacity, which is an impermissible defense in
Florida. Nevertheless, the court did permit the defense to
introduce testimony that the defendant is "weird, "
and speaks "oddly, " "out of turn" and in
a "monotone" voice as a means of explaining his
mannerisms and demeanor.
court excluded the content of the defendant's 911 call to
police dispatch, finding it did not satisfy the excited
utterance exception to the hearsay rule. The court did so
upon determining that the defendant had an opportunity to
reflect prior to making the call. In so holding, the court
relied upon the testimony of the defendant's neighborhood
friend, Lisa Syren. She testified that, just two weeks prior
to the shooting, the defendant had both shown her the shotgun
and said that he wanted to shoot his father with it and make
it look like self-defense.
closing argument, the prosecutor made a number of comments-
some objected to, some not-which the defendant claims
amounted to misconduct and which entitle him to a new trial.
The court denied his motion for a new trial.
jury convicted the defendant as charged of first degree
premeditated murder. Because he was seventeen years and
twenty-nine days old at the time of the offense, the trial
court conducted an individualized sentencing hearing under
section 921.1401 of the Florida Statutes. The trial court
imposed a sentence of life in prison, later amended to life
with judicial review after twenty five years. This appeal
appeal, the defendant claims the trial court abused its
discretion by: permitting the prosecutor to introduce bad
character evidence with respect to The List and the second
list he kept in jail awaiting trial; precluding the defense
from introducing testimony that the defendant had
Asperger's syndrome; excluding the defendant's 911
call to the police as hearsay; and denying the defense motion
for mistrial based on improper closing argument. The
defendant also argues that the individualized hearing for
juveniles set forth in section 921.1401 of the Florida
Statutes violates Apprendi because the trial court,
not the jury, conducts the individualized hearing and
determines whether a life sentence is appropriate. We address
each claim separately.
of The List
List contained ten names with a Roman numeral preceding each
name. The father's name was at the top of The List and
was the only name with a Roman numeral V next to it. Of the
remaining nine names on The List, there were seven names with
a Roman numeral IV and two with a Roman numeral III. There
were no Roman numerals I or II.
motion in limine hearing, the State argued that an
un-redacted copy of The List should be presented to the jury
because it was "inextricably intertwined" evidence.
See § 90.402, Fla. Stat. (2013) ("All
relevant evidence is admissible, except as provided by
law."). To this end, the State commented that
"witnesses will come in and testify that they knew the
Defendant had a list . . . and he described to them what the
list was for." The State proffered that the witnesses
would "discuss the levels of the list" and that the
defendant regularly stated that he hated his father and
wanted to kill him. The State also noted that "everyone
on this list had an incident with this Defendant that they
can recall." The trial court ruled that The List would
be admitted at trial.
trial, the court was asked to clarify its earlier ruling with
respect to the witnesses who would be testifying about The
List. The defense objected to any witnesses testifying as to
any personal incident they had with defendant that resulted
with either their name being placed on The List, or the
defendant telling them their name had been placed on The
List. Defense counsel argued that none of the unrelated
incidents were relevant as to whether the defendant
intentionally killed his father. In response, the State
argued that the witnesses' testimony as to the unrelated
incidents would provide an "understanding of this
list" insofar as it was evidence of "the way that
the Defendant keeps track of people whom he does not like and
that he intends to punish." The trial court agreed with
the State and ruled their testimony was admissible.
with the court's rulings, the State introduced the
testimony of several of the defendant's former classmates
and teachers at trial with respect to The List.
defendant argues that, by allowing witnesses to testify as to
why people were on The List, the trial court erroneously
admitted Williams rule evidence, i.e., collateral
evidence of uncharged bad acts introduced solely to prove the
defendant's bad character or propensity to commit crime,
in violation of section 90.404(2)(a) of the Florida Statutes.
The State counters that though it did provide a
Williams Rule notice at trial, it ultimately sought
to introduce the witnesses' testimony only under section
90.402 of the Florida Statutes, which provides that
"[a]ll relevant evidence is admissible, except as
provided by law." Because the State's argument is
well taken, we address only the section 90.402 argument.
See Griffin v. State, 639 So.2d 966, 968 (Fla. 1994)
("[E]vidence of uncharged crimes which . . . is
inextricably intertwined with the crime charged, is not
Williams rule evidence.").
Dorsett v. State, 944 So.2d 1207, 1213 (Fla. 3d DCA
2006) (citations omitted), this court sitting en
banc stated the standard under section 90.402 for
admitting relevant evidence of uncharged collateral acts that
is considered to be "inextricably intertwined" with
the charged crime(s):
Evidence is inextricably intertwined if the evidence is
necessary to (1) "adequately describe the
deed, "; (2) provide an intelligent
account of the crime(s) charged; (3)
establish the entire context out of which the charged
crime(s) arose; or (4) adequately describe
the events leading up to the charged crime(s).
evidence is admissible under section 90.402 if it is a
"relevant and inseparable part of the act which is in
issue." Id. at 1214-15 (quoting Charles W.
Ehrhardt, Florida Evidence § 404.17 (1993
ed.)). If this standard is met, the court must then decide if
the probative value of introducing such evidence is
"substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair
prejudice, confusion of issues, misleading the jury, or
needless presentation of cumulative evidence."
Id. at 1212 (quoting § 90.403, Fla. Stat.).
This court reviews the trial court's ruling on
admissibility of such evidence for an abuse of discretion.
See Knight v. State, 15 So.3d 936, 938 (Fla. 3d DCA
2009). "In the context of the trial proceedings to that
point, [where] reasonable trial judges might well disagree on
whether the defense objection should have been overruled or
sustained, . . . no abuse of discretion [will be]
the defendant concedes that the un-redacted list was
admissible at trial, as well as witness testimony as to the
meaning of the Roman numerals next to the names on the list
and the differing levels of deserved punishment the defendant
assigned to them. The defendant argues, however, that the
testimony should have stopped there, claiming that whether
the defendant had threatened and/or intended to hurt
teachers, classmates and neighbors, was in no way relevant to
prove that he intentionally killed his father. In contrast,
as it argued below, the State claims that the witnesses'
testimony about circumstances surrounding the defendant's
placement of their names on the list was necessary to
establish the entire context out of which the charged crimes
arose and to adequately describe the events leading up to the
shooting. These are the third and fourth justifications
stated in Dorsett.
reviewed the trial transcripts, we find that the trial court
did not abuse its discretion in determining that the
testimony of the defendant's former teachers and
classmates was inextricably intertwined with the charged
crime and that the probative value of such evidence was not
outweighed by its prejudicial effect. See Dorsett,
944 So.2d at 1215 ("Given these facts, without being
able to explain the entire context and circumstances leading
to the charged transaction, the jury would not have been
presented with a true understanding regarding the
officer's focus and attention on the defendant.");
State v. Rambaran, 975 So.2d 519, 525 (Fla. 3d DCA
2008) (permitting the State to introduce evidence of
collateral crimes by the defendant against the two victims on
two prior occasions because the prior events "provide an
intelligent account of the events that led to the crimes
being tried, " where the defendant was charged with two
counts of attempted murder).
State is correct that providing testimony only as to the
father's name appearing on The List and the meaning of
the Roman numeral designation next to his name would not have
provided the full context of when and how the defendant
developed his hatred and premeditated intent to kill his
father. Without more, the jury would have had little insight
into the defendant's thought process or intent when
creating The List-such as, what types of acts merited a
person being designated a category I or II (just mad at
person), and categories III (deserved punishment), IV
(deserved severe, permanent punishment) and V (deserved
death), and what moved a person up and/or down The List, as
well as why only the father merited a category