DAMARCUS J. KIRKLAND-WILLIAMS, Appellant,
STATE OF FLORIDA, Appellee.
FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE REHEARING MOTION AND, IF
from the Circuit Court for Hillsborough County; E. Lamar
L. Dimmig, II, Public Defender, and Ivy R. Ginsburg, Special
Assistant Public Defender, Bartow, for Appellant.
Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and Susan M.
Shanahan, Assistant Attorney General, Tampa, for Appellee.
LaROSE, Chief Judge.
J. Kirkland-Williams challenges his judgment and sentences
for first-degree felony murder while engaged in aggravated
child abuse (count 1), and aggravated child abuse (count 2).
We have jurisdiction. See Fla. R. App. P.
9.140(b)(1)(A), (F). We affirm Mr. Williams' judgment and
sentences in all respects. We write to address his argument
that the trial court erred in admitting
Williams rule evidence.
Williams had been watching his girlfriend's
thirteen-month-old son, E.M., for most of the day on May 18,
2011. Early on May 19, E.M. died. He sustained multiple blunt
trauma injuries to his head and lacerations to his liver and
spleen. E.M. also had multiple bruises and contusions all
over his body. Mr. Williams told detectives that E.M.'s
injuries were accidental. He explained that when E.M. was
crying, he accidently hit E.M. on his back a couple of times
and squeezed his stomach. When E.M. continued to cry, Mr.
Williams tossed E.M. towards the bed; E.M.'s stomach hit
a dresser. Mr. Williams also stated that E.M. slid off the
bed and bumped his head.
State charged Mr. Williams with first-degree felony murder
while engaged in aggravated child abuse, and aggravated child
abuse. Prior to trial, the State filed a notice of intent to
rely on Williams rule evidence and a supplemental
argument in support. The State sought to admit a video
recording and eyewitness testimony that less than three weeks
before E.M.'s death, Mr. Williams struck F.M., E.M.'s
two-year-old sister, several times at a public park. At the
Williams rule hearing, the State presented the
testimony of the eyewitness and of the officer who
investigated the incident at the public park. The State also
played the video recording. The eyewitness testified that
E.M. was crying a lot; the eyewitness started recording Mr.
Williams and saw Mr. Williams shake E.M. The recording
depicted Mr. Williams striking F.M. several times with a
blunt object and then picking up F.M. by the arm and striking
her with the object repeatedly, resulting in "numerous
bruises and contusions on her body."
viewing the video and the transcript of the interview between
Mr. Williams and detectives, the trial court concluded as
[T]he Court is going to find that both criminal acts, both of
the incidents involving these children were committed within
a very short period of time of each other; both of these
incidents involved situations in which the defendant was the
caregiver at the time that these incidents took place. These
children were close in age. Their injuries were consistent
with each other that they both sustained blunt trauma
injuries and that the State should be allowed to use it to
show the absence of mistake or accident, and I'm going to
allow the Williams [r]ule evidence in, the
evidence during the trial.
trial, the State presented the Williams rule
evidence to the jury. The trial court explained the proper
use of the Williams rule evidence to the jury before
the eyewitness testified and in its final charge to the jury.
The State also presented Mr. Williams' statements to
detectives about E.M.'s injuries, as well as other
testimony and evidence concerning the trauma E.M. endured.
Specifically, the State presented the testimony of Dr. Mary
Mainland, the chief medical examiner who performed E.M.'s
autopsy. She testified that E.M. received numerous strikes or
blows from a blunt object. She discounted the possibility
that falling on a blunt object would have caused E.M.'s
extensive injuries. The jury found Mr. Williams guilty as
charged. The trial court sentenced him to life in prison for
count one, first-degree felony murder, and to thirty years in
prison for count two, aggravated child abuse.
Williams argues that (1) the Williams rule evidence
was irrelevant and its prejudicial effect substantially
outweighed its probative value, and (2) the State's
notice of intent was insufficient. "We review the trial
court's admission of Williams rule evidence for