final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.
from the Circuit Court for the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit,
Palm Beach County; John S. Kastrenakes, Judge; L.T. Case No.
Haughwout, Public Defender, and Tom Wm. Odom, Assistant
Public Defender, West Palm Beach, for appellant.
Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and Kimberly T.
Acuña, Assistant Attorney General, West Palm Beach,
Grimes contends that his conviction for possession of a
firearm by a convicted felon should be reversed because the
trial court abused its discretion in allowing the state to
introduce multiple certified judgments of prior felony
convictions into evidence in order to establish Grimes'
legal status. On the record before us, we find no error and
parties were preparing to begin voir dire, Grimes moved to
exclude all but one of the certified judgments the state
sought to enter into evidence to prove Grimes was a convicted
felon. Grimes argued that only one judgment was necessary and
that admission of more than one would be "overly
prejudicial." The state explained that it sought to
admit six certified judgments encompassing eight felony
convictions: three sales of cocaine, three possessions of
cocaine, a fleeing and eluding, and resisting an officer with
trial court noted that Grimes did not stipulate to the legal
status element of the offense and that it was not apparent as
to whether Grimes would dispute that element of the charged
crime. Based on Harris v. State, 449 So.2d 892 (Fla.
1st DCA 1984), the trial court fashioned a compromise: the
state could introduce four certified judgments encompassing
up to six convictions. The trial court believed that any more
than that would be cumulative and unduly prejudicial. During
trial, four certified judgments were entered into evidence.
They reflected convictions for two sales of cocaine and three
possessions of cocaine.
moving for exclusion of all but one certified judgment,
Grimes acknowledged the relevance of any one of the prior
convictions. He focused on the cumulative and overly
prejudicial effect of the other certified judgments. Thus,
his objection was lodged pursuant to section 90.403, Florida
Statutes (2016), which provides that "[r]elevant
evidence is inadmissible if its probative value is
substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice,
confusion of issues, misleading the jury, or needless
presentation of cumulative evidence."
Florida Supreme Court has elaborated on the balancing inquiry
of section 90.403:
"Unfair prejudice" has been described as "an
undue tendency to suggest decision on an improper basis,
commonly, though not necessarily, an emotional one."
Brown v. State, 719 So.2d 882, 885 (Fla. 1998)
(quoting Old Chief v. United States, 519 U.S. 172,
117 S.Ct. 644, 136 L.Ed.2d 574 (1997)). This rule of
exclusion "is directed at evidence which inflames the
jury or appeals improperly to the jury's emotions."
Steverson v. State, 695 So.2d 687, 688-89 (Fla.
1997). In performing the balancing test to determine if the
unfair prejudice outweighs the probative value of the
evidence, the trial court should consider the need for
the evidence, the tendency of the evidence to
suggest an emotional basis for the verdict, the
chain of inference from the evidence necessary to
establish the material fact, and the effectiveness of a
limiting instruction. Taylor v. State, 855
So.2d 1, 22 (Fla. 2003). The trial court is obligated to
exclude evidence in which unfair prejudice outweighs the
probative value in order to avoid the danger that a jury will
convict a defendant based upon reasons other than evidence
establishing his guilt.
Wright v. State, 19 So.3d 277, 296 (Fla. 2009)
(emphases in original) (quoting McDuffie v. State,
970 So.2d 312, 327 (Fla. 2007)).
trial court relied on Harris, 449 So.2d at 896-98,
which involved the application of section 90.403 to the
admission of more than one prior conviction in a prosecution
for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. In
Harris's first trial, which ended in a mistrial, the
parties stipulated to his status as a convicted felon.
Id. at 894. During the second trial, certified
copies of four of Harris's prior felony convictions were
introduced into evidence over his objection. Id. at
argued on appeal that the trial court erred in allowing the
state to introduce documentary evidence of his four felony
convictions, as the probative value was substantially
outweighed by the prejudicial effect. Id. at 896.
The First District rejected the argument, first recognizing
that a prior conviction is a substantive element of the
offense. Id. But the court also recognized that even
if the introduction of more than one prior felony conviction
was not necessary, "the test for admissibility of
evidence of such prior convictions is one of
relevancy, not necessity." Id.
(emphasis in original). The court explained that not all
relevant evidence is admissible under the balancing test of
section 90.403. Id. at 897. The court affirmed that
a trial court has discretion to determine whether the
probative value of evidence is substantially outweighed by
the danger of unfair prejudice or the needless presentation
of cumulative evidence: "The court must weigh the
proffered evidence against the other facts in the record and
balance it against the strength of the reason for
exclusion." Id. (quoting C. Ehrhardt,
Florida Evidence § 403.1 at 62-63 (1977)). The
court also recognized that "most evidence that is
admitted will be prejudicial to the adverse party, " and
it is only "evidence which inflames the jury or appeals
strongly to the jury's prejudice" that triggers the
protections of section 90.403. Id. (quoting C.
Ehrhardt, Florida Evidence § 403.1 at 62-63
(1977)). The court ...