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Edwards v. State

Florida Court of Appeals, Fourth District

June 13, 2018

MICHAEL EDWARDS, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF FLORIDA, Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit, Broward County; Martin J. Bidwill, Judge; L.T. Case No. 15-2476 CF10A.

          Carey Haughwout, Public Defender, and Siobhan Helene Shea, Assistant Public Defender, West Palm Beach, for appellant.

          Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and Heidi L. Bettendorf, Assistant Attorney General, West Palm Beach, for appellee.

          Taylor, J.

         Michael Edwards appeals his conviction and sentence for aggravated battery. At trial, appellant maintained he was acting in self-defense during a fight with the alleged victim. Critical to his case was testimony by a detective implying that appellant's demeanor during a post-arrest interview indicated deception. We reverse appellant's conviction and remand for a new trial, because the trial court erred in allowing the detective to testify that, based on his training and experience in conducting interviews, certain body language and mannerisms indicate deception. Because appellant exhibited those same mannerisms during the interview, the detective's testimony amounted to an inadmissible opinion on credibility and invaded the province of the jury.

         Briefly, the evidence at trial established that a fight arose between appellant and the alleged victim[1] one evening outside a convenience store after the two exchanged words about money the victim claimed appellant owed him for a pair of boots.

         Appellant punched the victim, and the two men started fighting. The surveillance video at the convenience store captured the beginning of the fight when appellant threw the first punch, but appellant and the victim disappeared from the camera's view soon thereafter.

         The victim and appellant were "just going back and forth" for a while. According to the victim's testimony, appellant eventually pulled out a razor and started cutting him with it. At the time of the fight, the victim was carrying a little silver pocketknife. The victim testified that he was unable to use his knife because his hands were too bloody. The victim denied pulling his knife on appellant or cutting him.

         The victim was badly cut on his face, head, neck, and arms. When he realized he was cut, he let appellant go, and appellant got on his bike and rode away.

         A detective took a statement from the victim at the hospital. Because the victim claimed in his statement that he was unable to use his knife in the fight, the police never collected or examined the knife.

         The detective later conducted a videotaped interrogation of appellant, which was played for the jury. During the interview, appellant mostly looked at the ground, buried his face in his hands, and avoided making eye contact.

         The detective asked appellant what caused him to do what he did. Appellant responded by writing on paper, "He tried to kill with his knife." Appellant said the other man was drinking and tried to hurt him. Appellant claimed the man beat him up and cut him with a razor or a knife. Appellant said he could not remember too much after that.

         Appellant described the man as "big" and said the man was in a group of three or four people. Appellant denied knowing the man. When the detective asked appellant if he got the knife away from the man, appellant replied that he grabbed the man's hand but could not remember if he got the knife away from him. Appellant repeated that the man cut him. Appellant did not call the police after the incident because ...


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