final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.
Petition for writ of prohibition or certiorari to the Circuit
Court for the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit, Palm Beach County;
John S. Kastrenakes, Judge; L.T. Case No.
Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and Leslie T.
Campbell, Assistant Attorney General, West Palm Beach, for
Haughwout, Public Defender, and Gary Lee Caldwell, Assistant
Public Defender, West Palm Beach, for respondent.
State petitions for a writ of prohibition or a writ of
certiorari to quash the circuit court's order refusing to
allow it to file an untimely notice of intent to seek the
death penalty. We agree with the State that the circuit court
incorrectly concluded it lacked authority to enlarge the
forty-five-day deadline to file a notice of intent to seek
the death penalty. But, based on the specific facts of this
case, we cannot conclude the circuit court departed from the
essential requirements of the law when it declined to
exercise its discretion and grant the State's request for
extension. Thus, we deny the petition.
Palm Beach State Attorney's Office indicted the Defendant
on charges of first-degree murder with a firearm and being a
felon in possession of a firearm. The date of his arraignment
was August 18, 2017, which is critical to the resolution of
this petition because both section 982.04(1)(b), Florida
Statutes (2017), and Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure
3.181, allow the State forty-five days from the date of
arraignment to file a notice of intent to seek the death
days after arraignment, the Defendant moved to preclude the
State from seeking the death penalty. The State responded
three days later by moving for leave to file a notice to seek
the death penalty. In its four-paragraph motion, the State
listed two aggravating factors, which included a prior
conviction and evidence that the Defendant planned his acts
in advance. The State also asserted that "[i]t has been
approximately 59 days since the Defendant's arraignment
on these charges. Discovery has just begun and no depositions
have been taken of any witness. The Defendant is not
prejudiced by the delay of 14 days." In other words, the
State provided no basis for the extension, nor any cause for
failing to seek the extension until after the deadline had
court held a hearing on the competing motions. It pointed out
that the State knew of the two aggravating factors upon which
it sought leave at the time of indictment. The State asked
for additional time to file a supplemental memorandum
because, they stated, "it's an important issue, and
the language is really odd in the statute." After a
colloquy, the court responded, stating "unless they can
show excusable neglect, and perhaps you could argue, judge,
excusable neglect in this case, but you haven't made
that. And I don't think 'I'm continuing my
investigation' is excusable neglect." Nevertheless,
the court ultimately allowed the State additional time to
file a supplemental memorandum.
supplemental memorandum was filed as the State's motion
to deny defendant's motion to preclude the State from
seeking the death penalty. While acknowledging it was
untimely, the State argued there would be no prejudice to the
The defendant asks this Court to impose the harshest
punishment available, i.e., prohibit the State from seeking
the appropriate sentence of death in this case simply because
the state filed its Notice To Seek The Death Penalty fourteen
days late. The State acknowledges that pursuant to Fla. Stat.
§ 782.04(1)(b) and Fla. R. of Crim. Pro. 3.181, the
Notice is untimely, however, the two-week delay has not in
any way prejudiced the defendant, nor has it violated any of
his constitutional rights.
five-page memorandum, like the original four-paragraph
motion, failed to provide a reason to extend the deadline and
focused on the legality of extending the forty-five-day
court held a continued hearing after the State filed its
supplemental memorandum, at which time the State raised
excusable neglect for the first time:
[Assistant State Attorney]: One of the things I wanted to put
on the record, although we didn't plead it, is you
mentioned early in the week about excusable negligence.
THE COURT: Excusable neglect.
[Assistant State Attorney]: Neglect, I'm sorry. That I
didn't argue that, but I know that the court knows in
that 45 days immediately following the arraignment, this
courthouse was shut down because we suffered a hurricane. And
THE COURT: So I can give you those extra six days or
. . .
[Assistant State Attorney]: And then the day after the
hurricane before the courthouse was even reopened, I left the
country for two weeks. I didn't plead that.
excusable neglect, the court orally found that it appeared
"the prosecutor forgot the time line or forgot" and
that "even with the good faith exception, I would find
against you, in this, under the facts of this case." In
other words, even if the court believed it had the authority
to extend the deadline it would not have done so because it
did not think that the State had shown good cause or
court took the issue under advisement to allow it time to
review the State's supplemental memorandum. The court
then issued a detailed order granting the Defendant's
motion to preclude the State from seeking the death penalty
and denying the State's motion for enlargement. The State
filed this petition for writ of prohibition or certiorari
asking that we quash the court's order.
State seeks the issuance of a writ of prohibition or,
alternatively, a writ of certiorari. We begin our analysis
with the standard of review applicable to each. Second, we
consider the evolution and the language of the governing
statute and rule. Third, we apply the statute and rules and
hold the court incorrectly concluded it lacked jurisdiction
to extend the deadline. Fourth, we consider whether the court
departed from the essential requirements of the law when it
declined to exercise its discretion to extend the deadline
and conclude the court did not.
Standard of Review
state attorney has complete discretion in making the decision
to charge and prosecute." Cleveland v. State,
417 So.2d 653, 654 (Fla. 1982). A writ of prohibition is
appropriate if a trial court interferes with the
prosecutor's discretion by refusing to allow a
first-degree murder prosecution to proceed as a capital case.
State v. Bloom, 497 So.2d 2, 3 (Fla. 1986) ("A
writ of prohibition is the appropriate remedy when a trial
court attempts to interfere with ...