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Jackson v. State

Florida Court of Appeals, Third District

June 13, 2018

Milton Jackson, Appellant,
v.
The State of Florida, Appellee.

          Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

          An Appeal from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County, Lower Tribunal No. 15-17219 Richard L. Hersch, Judge.

          Carlos J. Martinez, Public Defender, and Harvey J. Sepler and James Odell, Assistant Public Defenders, for appellant.

          Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, and Christina L. Dominguez, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Before ROTHENBERG, C.J., and LAGOA and EMAS, JJ.

          EMAS, J.

         Milton Jackson was charged by information with armed burglary of an occupied structure with an assault or battery, domestic battery by strangulation, and kidnapping. Following a trial, the jury returned a verdict finding Jackson guilty of trespass (as a lesser included offense of burglary) and misdemeanor battery (as a lesser included offense of domestic battery by strangulation). The jury acquitted Jackson of the kidnapping charge.

         On appeal, Jackson contends he is entitled to a new trial because the prosecutor made improper "golden rule" arguments in closing. We affirm, concluding that the prosecutor's arguments were not improper, but were relevant arguments supported by the evidence at trial, and were made in fair response to the defense's trial theory and closing argument.

         EVIDENCE AND ARGUMENTS AT TRIAL

         On August 19, 2015, the victim was walking with a friend to a neighbor's house around the corner when Jackson pulled up in his car and called the victim over to talk with him. Jackson and the victim had previously been in an on-again, off-again relationship. The victim told Jackson that she would talk with him when she returned from the neighbor's house. When the victim returned a few minutes later, however, she did not see Jackson or his car. The victim said goodbye to her friend and went inside her house.

         Immediately after entering her house, Jackson came up from behind the victim and put her in a chokehold. The victim began to lose consciousness, and Jackson proceeded to drag the victim by her hair into the bedroom where he beat her. Jackson then took the victim into the bathroom where he placed her in the bathtub. While in the bathtub, the victim pretended to be passed out. When Jackson left the bathroom, the victim got out of the bathtub and ran through her back door, fully nude, towards her neighbor, who was outside. The neighbor saw the victim, and also saw Jackson running behind the victim, holding a ceramic crucifix above his head. The neighbor grabbed a glass bottle, broke it in two and used it to threaten Jackson. Jackson started to laugh, saying "God told me to do it." The police arrived soon thereafter, and Jackson was taken into custody.

         At trial, the defense's theory was that the incident didn't even happen, given the absence of any visible injuries on the victim which would be consistent with her description of the vicious attack by Jackson. In closing argument, defense counsel attempted to point out this absence of evidence:

DEFENSE COUNSEL: [The victim's] version of events is not really what happened that day.
. . . .
[T]here is no[t] even [a] break-up or anything that happens prior to this.
The defendant just happens to be in her home and just happens to decide that he just wants to attack her.
. . . .
He must have been holding on to [the victim] so tightly that she passed out and could not remember and lost consciousness.
Yet, we talked about corroboration in jury selection. You have these photographs [of the victim's injuries]. There's no marks around her neck. There's no bruising ...

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