final until disposition of any timely and authorized motion
under Fla. R. App. P. 9.330 or 9.331.
appeal from the Circuit Court for Duval County. Mark Borello,
Thomas, Public Defender, Glen P. Gifford, Assistant Public
Defender, Tallahassee, for Appellant.
Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Amanda D. Stokes, Assistant
Attorney General, Tallahassee, for Appellee.
was tried on the charge of armed robbery. The jury found him
guilty as charged. On appeal, he raises four points for
reversal. We find no error under any of the points and affirm
on all four. We write only to address our affirmance on Point
II because the relevant facts exemplify a permissible use of
rebuttal argument in a criminal trial.
Point II, Appellant claims that the trial court erred when it
denied defense counsel's request during closing arguments
to respond to the State's rebuttal argument. Counsel
maintained that the prosecutor's statements in her
rebuttal argument improperly transcended the scope of the
defense closing argument, and the trial court's failure
to give defense counsel an opportunity to respond was similar
to the denial of a re-cross examination when a new matter is
raised on redirect.
review a trial court's ruling on the propriety of closing
argument for an abuse of discretion. See Cardona v.
State, 185 So.3d 514, 520 (Fla. 2016). In the present
case, we are not persuaded by Appellant's argument that
the trial court abused its discretion. Instead, we view the
prosecutor's rebuttal as a fair comment on defense
counsel's closing. Our reasoning is set forth below.
evidence at trial established that two men robbed the victim
at gunpoint in the late night hours of December 19, 2015.
While one of the robbers held a gun on the victim, the other
robber grabbed her purse to find the keys to her car. Once it
became clear that the keys were not in her purse-and because
her screams for help were growing louder-the robbers settled
on taking the victim's wallet, which contained a single
dollar bill. They kept the dollar, but threw away the gun and
the wallet after they fled. Neither item was recovered.
police quickly responded to the scene of the crime, and the
victim gave a clear description of the robbers' distinct
attire. Within moments of a be-on-the-look-out
("BOLO") alert, another officer apprehended two men
fitting the victim's description a half mile from the
scene of the robbery. The initial responding officer drove
the victim to where the men were being detained to conduct a
"show-up." The victim was able to directly identify
one of the men by both his attire and his face, but was only
able to identify the second man by his attire. Appellant was
that second man. Both men were taken into custody and
interviewed by a robbery detective. During Appellant's
interview, he admitted to having been with the other
man-Derrick Matthews-earlier in the evening, smoking
marijuana, but he denied being with Matthews when the robbery
Appellant's trial, Derrick Matthews appeared as the
State's key witness, having already pleaded guilty to the
robbery. Matthews testified that Appellant was the man who
had held the gun on the victim while directing Matthews to
take her purse. Also testifying for the State was Detective
Blankinchip, who revealed that after he had interviewed
Appellant, he placed Appellant and Matthews alone together in
an interview room that was wired for audio, allowing
Detective Blankinchip to listen to their conversation. The
detective testified that he heard Appellant tell Matthews:
"Don't say sh*t."
his closing argument, defense counsel urged the jury to place
little weight on Derrick Matthews' testimony, insinuating
that in exchange for his cooperation in incriminating
Appellant, the State would argue on Matthews' behalf for
a light sentence. As for Detective Blankinchip's
testimony, counsel had this, and only this, to say:
Then the State called Officer Blankinchip and he [Appellant]
honestly admitted that he was with Derrick Matthews earlier
in the day smoking marijuana, but he didn't say anything
about the subject incident. There's no confession or
admission there. And Detective Blankinchip kind of sneered
when he talked about my client Brenden Brown's refusal to
talk any further. But he had to admit [on cross-examination],
there's a lot of innocent people that wisely choose not
to talk to the police. So you can't take any error for
anything with somebody using their good judgment and not
talking with a law enforcement officer. Maybe wait until they
get a lawyer.
briefly discussed the remaining evidence and then exhorted
the jury not to convict Appellant because the whole of the
State's case depended on "Derrick Matthews'
testimony, and he [was] a ...