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Roberts v. State

Supreme Court of Florida

March 1, 2018

JESSIE CLAIRE ROBERTS, Petitioner,
v.
STATE OF FLORIDA, Respondent.

         NOT FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE REHEARING MOTION AND, IF FILED, DETERMINED.

         Application for Review of the Decision of the District Court of Appeal - Direct Conflict of Decisions First District - Case No. 1D14-321 (Duval County)

          Andy Thomas, Public Defender, and Maria Ines Suber, Assistant Public Defender, Second Judicial Circuit, Tallahassee, Florida, for Petitioner

          Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Trisha Meggs Pate, Bureau Chief, Angela R. Hensel and Robert "Charlie" Lee, Assistant Attorneys General, Tallahassee, Florida, for Respondent

          LABARGA, C.J.

         Jessie Claire Roberts seeks review of the decision of the First District Court of Appeal in Roberts v. State, 168 So.3d 252 (Fla. 1st DCA 2015), on the ground that it expressly and directly conflicts with this Court's decision in Walton v. State, 208 So.3d 60 (Fla. 2016), on the issue of whether the failure to instruct on the necessarily lesser included offense of manslaughter by act constitutes fundamental error. We have jurisdiction. See art. V, § 3(b)(3), Fla. Const. For the reasons explained below, we quash the decision below to the extent it is inconsistent with Walton and remand to the First District for proceedings consistent with this opinion. Because we conclude Roberts is entitled to a new trial pursuant to Walton, we decline to address the remaining issues.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Roberts was charged with attempted second-degree murder, sale or possession with intent to sell cannabis while armed, carrying a concealed firearm, failure of defendant on bail to appear, and possession of less than twenty grams of cannabis. She pled guilty to carrying a concealed firearm and possession of less than twenty grams of cannabis. A jury found her guilty of the remaining counts, specifically finding that she was guilty of attempted second-degree murder with possession and discharge of a firearm causing great bodily harm.

         The district court described the facts established during trial:

The State presented evidence that appellant shot the victim, Catrina Howard, in the face during a dispute over a marijuana transaction. Howard testified that her cousin, Jason Marks, was attempting to purchase marijuana from appellant, but they got into a verbal dispute over payment. Howard stated that appellant then pulled out a gun. Howard testified she became defensive for both herself and her cousin, so she punched appellant once in the face. In response, she stated appellant raised the gun and pointed it at her, and she put up her hands defensively in front of her face. Appellant then fired once, shooting Howard in the neck and hand. Howard testified that at the time of the shooting, she was standing ten feet away from appellant, she was not advancing on appellant or trying to hit her again, and no one was threatening appellant. Marks gave testimony consistent with that of Howard. A passerby also gave similar testimony that he saw appellant shoot the victim, who was not moving aggressively towards appellant.
Appellant testified in her own defense. She stated that she had the gun to her side and was backing away from Howard and Marks, trying to retreat, when Howard punched her. Appellant testified she raised the gun, aimed it at Howard, and fired because she believed doing so was necessary to protect herself. She stated she believed that Howard and Marks would have "jumped" her if she had not shot Howard.
The jury was instructed on the charged offense of attempted second-degree murder, as well as the lesser-included offenses of aggravated battery and aggravated assault. Counsel did not request an instruction on attempted manslaughter, and no such instruction was given. The jury found appellant guilty of attempted second-degree murder as charged.

Roberts, 168 So.3d at 253-54.

         Roberts appealed her judgment and sentence to the First District, raising three issues: (1) the trial court committed fundamental error when it failed to instruct the jury on the necessarily lesser included offense of attempted manslaughter by act;[1] (2) the trial court committed fundamental error in giving contradictory instructions on the duty to retreat, which misstated the law and negated Roberts' only defense; and (3) the trial court erred in denying Roberts' motion for judgment of acquittal as to the ...


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