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State v. Chavers

Florida Court of Appeals, Fourth District

November 15, 2017

STATE OF FLORIDA, Appellant,
v.
RODNEY CHAVERS, Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit, Palm Beach County; Samantha Schosberg Feuer, Judge; L.T. Case No. 50-2015-CF-012000-AXXX-MB.

          Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and Cynthia L. Comras and Melanie Dale Surber, Assistant Attorneys General, West Palm Beach, for appellant.

          Antony P. Ryan, Regional Counsel, and Paul O'Neil, Assistant Regional Counsel, Office of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel, West Palm Beach, for appellee.

          Conner, J.

         The State appeals the trial court's grant of immunity from prosecution and dismissal of the information against Rodney Chavers charging him with second-degree murder with a firearm. Because the order on appeal is silent on necessary findings, we reverse, quash the order, and remand for further proceedings.

         Background

         The State charged Chavers with second-degree murder with a firearm occurring on November 13, 2015. Chavers filed a motion to dismiss based on immunity under sections 776.012(2) and 776.032(1), Florida Statutes (2016), and Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.190(b). Chavers alleged that he was immune from criminal prosecution because he believed, at the time of the shooting, that the shooting was necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony-the victim robbing him of his money.

         In July 2016, the trial court conducted an evidentiary hearing on the motion. During the hearing, Chavers testified that on the day of the shooting, he had $300 to $400 in cash in his possession, which he took out of his pocket in front of a group of friends, including the victim. One of the men told Chavers that he should not be walking around with cash on him because of the reputation of the neighborhood. Chavers responded that he "was safe, " that he "had protection, " and that he "wasn't worried." Chavers testified that, in response, the victim said that "you [Chavers] [sic] not gonna do shit, I'll take it." Chavers ignored the victim's statement and continued talking with his friends.

         Unprovoked, Chavers was then attacked from behind on the left side of his face, knocked up against a car, and became dazed. Chavers also testified that as he was trying to get up, he recognized that the victim was the one that hit him, and that the victim hit him several more times. He then saw the victim reaching for Chavers's side, but did not know whether the victim was reaching for Chavers's gun or the money in his pocket. The victim eventually made contact with Chavers's gun. Chavers tried to remove the victim's hand from his gun. Chavers grabbed his gun and struggled to block the attack with his other hand, and while he was still against the car, because he was not able to get up, he pulled the trigger. The victim did not drop to the ground. Chavers and the victim then ran in different directions. However, the victim eventually died of his gunshot wounds. Chavers also testified that he had known the victim for years and had previously seen the victim carry a firearm.

         Chavers presented as a witness one of the men in the group that night. The witness corroborated Chavers's account of the exchange between Chavers and the victim leading up to the men struggling over Chavers's gun, but upon seeing the two struggle over the gun, the witness ran from the scene. He testified he heard shots, but did not see the actual shooting.

         The State called witnesses as well, but none were eyewitnesses to the exchange between Chavers and the victim or the shooting. The State's witnesses testified regarding the actions and statements of Chavers after the shooting.

         In a written order, the trial court found that Chavers's "fear of imminent great bodily harm was objectively reasonable, " and that Chavers established by a preponderance of the evidence that he was "reasonable in his belief that use of the gun was necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm." As such, the trial court decided that Chavers was entitled to immunity, and dismissed the information. The trial court did not discuss in the written order whether Chavers was engaged in a criminal ...


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