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Jackson v. State

Florida Court of Appeals, Fifth District

September 7, 2017



         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Putnam County, Clyde E. Wolfe, Judge.

          James S. Purdy, Public Defender, and Nancy Ryan, Assistant Public Defender, Daytona Beach, for Appellant.

          Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and Kellie A. Nielan, Assistant Attorney General, Daytona Beach, for Appellee.

          COHEN, C.J.

         Amanda Jackson appeals the denial of her motion for a new trial, which was entered after she was convicted of leaving the scene of a crash involving death. On appeal, Ms. Jackson raises a number of issues, one of which requires reversal. She argues that the trial court erred in failing to hold a Richardson[1] hearing after the State introduced an admission into evidence that was not disclosed during discovery. We agree and therefore reverse and remand for a new trial.

         The facts of this case are tragic. In 2010, a one-year-old child was struck and killed by a vehicle while crawling in the street. The child lived in the Silver Lakes Trailer Park with his mother. Ms. Jackson was the manager of the trailer park and lived there with her husband, Austin Jackson. Law enforcement determined that the vehicle involved was a red pickup truck but were unable to either locate the truck or establish the identity of the driver.[2]

         More than two years later, the Putnam County Sheriff's Department received a tip that implicated Ms. Jackson as the driver of the pickup truck that had struck and killed the child. As a result, officers interviewed Ms. Jackson. The interview took place at the Sheriff's Office and lasted over two hours. For the first hour and a half, Ms. Jackson either denied involvement or stated that she could not remember what occurred that day. After the detective interviewing Ms. Jackson suggested that witnesses had identified her as the driver, she changed her story and confessed to running over the child. No such witnesses existed.

         Ms. Jackson's confession was admitted into evidence and published to the jury. Jackson's central defense theory was that the confession had been obtained improperly: that she was susceptible to coercion and that the resulting confession was unreliable. As part of that defense, Ms. Jackson called Dr. Gregory DeClue as a witness. Dr. DeClue is a board-certified forensic psychologist who spent much of his career working for law enforcement agencies and training officers how to conduct and ensure the integrity of interrogations. Dr. DeClue was highly critical of the techniques used during the course of Ms. Jackson's interrogation and suggested that the techniques employed were susceptible to securing a false confession.

         On rebuttal, the State called Dr. William Meadows, who is also a forensic psychologist. Dr. Meadows conducted an interview with Ms. Jackson in preparation for his trial testimony. Ms. Jackson's counsel was present for that evaluation. The State asked Dr. Meadows whether Ms. Jackson stated that she felt pressured to confess, and Dr. Meadows responded, "She-she did indicate that she felt pressured, and she made an interesting statement when I asked her about that. She said she felt pressured because the detective knew that [she] had done it." The defense immediately objected, arguing that Ms. Jackson did not make that statement and Dr. Meadows mischaracterized what she said during the evaluation. The defense then moved for a mistrial, claiming that Dr. Meadows's testimony amounted to the introduction of an admission by Ms. Jackson, which the State had not disclosed to the defense during discovery. The trial court denied Ms. Jackson's motion for a mistrial, and she was subsequently convicted as charged.

         Ms. Jackson argues that the trial court erred in failing to conduct a Richardson hearing to address the defense's claim that the admission entered through Dr. Meadows's testimony constituted a discovery violation. While Ms. Jackson's counsel did not specifically request such a hearing, the contemporaneous objection and motion for mistrial were sufficient to apprise the trial court of the necessity of conducting such an inquiry. See Rath v. State, 627 So.2d 24, 25 (Fla. 5th DCA 1993).

         The content of Dr. Meadows's testimony about Ms Jackson's statement during the interview was the equivalent of an admission of guilt by Ms Jackson The presence of Ms Jackson's attorney during the interview with Dr Meadows did not negate the necessity for a Richardson hearing-defense counsel argued that Ms Jackson never made any such admission and that Dr Meadows mischaracterized her statement The State did not provide the statement to the defense either in its response to the demand for discovery or in a written report from Dr Meadows[3] The introduction of such a previously undisclosed admission, particularly when the validity of a confession to law enforcement was the crux of the defense, cannot be minimized Therefore, the trial court erred in failing to hold a Richardson hearing Due to the significant and prejudicial nature of the testimony, we cannot conclude that the trial court's failure to conduct such an inquiry was harmless error in this case Accordingly, we reverse and remand for a new trial[4]

         REVERSED and ...

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