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State v. Chantiloupe

Florida Court of Appeals, Fourth District

June 6, 2018

STATE OF FLORIDA, Petitioner,
v.
TASHANE M. CHANTILOUPE, Respondent.

         Not 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. 502017CF006914AXXXMB.

          Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and Leslie T. Campbell, Assistant Attorney General, West Palm Beach, for petitioner.

          Carey Haughwout, Public Defender, and Gary Lee Caldwell, Assistant Public Defender, West Palm Beach, for respondent.

          KUNTZ, J.

         The 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.

         Background

         The 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 penalty.

         Fifty-six 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 passed.

         The 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.

         The 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 Defendant:

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.

         This 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 deadline.

         The 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 then -
THE COURT: So I can give you those extra six days or whatever.
. . .
[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.

         On 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 excusable neglect.

         The 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.

         Analysis

         The 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.

         1. Standard of Review

         "The 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 ...


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