final until disposition of any timely and authorized motion
under Fla. R. App. P. 9.330 or 9.331.
appeal from the Circuit Court for Duval County. Marianne L.
Candice K. Brower, Regional Conflict Counsel, Gainesville,
and Melissa J. Ford, Assistant Regional Conflict Counsel,
Tallahassee, for Appellant.
Jo Bondi, Attorney General, and Kaitlin Weiss, Assistant
Attorney General, Tallahassee, for Appellee.
Majak Lai and his co-defendant, Mackenley Fiacre, were
charged with killing Barnat Bella while burglarizing his
home. Both men were convicted of first-degree murder and
armed burglary and sentenced to life in prison on each count.
This is Lai's appeal. Because we find no reversible error
in the issues presented, we affirm his convictions and
sentences. We write to address a comment made during the
State's closing argument and also note that remand is
necessary to correct a scrivener's error on the written
law enforcement officers were dispatched to Bella's home
late one evening after his security alarm activated. They
arrived to find his bedroom window "blown out" and
the blinds and curtains hanging outside the window. The
bathroom window in the rear of the home was broken as well.
inside, they discovered Bella lying in the hallway with blood
around his head and shell casings near his body. He had no
pulse. The medical examiner who conducted the autopsy would
later testify that Bella's death was a homicide caused by
a bullet wound to the back of his neck that cut his spinal
cord. The characteristics of the wound indicated that the end
of the gun's muzzle was almost touching Bella's skin
when the shot was fired.
on the locations of the glass around the two broken windows,
the crime scene detectives determined the bathroom window was
the entry point for the assailants and the bedroom window was
the exit point. Lai's blood was found in the victim's
hallway and bedroom, and Fiacre's blood was found on a
piece of glass outside, under the broken bedroom
Jok, who was Lai's girlfriend at the time of the crimes,
testified that Lai and Fiacre were friends. On the evening in
question, Fiacre called her phone and she handed it to Lai.
He then left. When Jok saw Lai a few hours later, he looked
upset and had a cut on his arm. Jok tried to find out what
had happened, but he would not tell her anything that
evening. The next morning, Lai explained that he and
"some other guy" broke into a house, the other guy
fought with Bella and shot him, and Lai cut his arm on a
window. Jok did not call the police. The couple broke up a
week later, although they remained friends.
Masters testified for the defense. Lai was the father of
Masters's grandchild, and Lai lived with her for two
months prior to his arrest. Lai told Masters that he could
not pay rent "because he was attacked and robbed."
On cross-examination, she testified that she was originally
going to be a State's witness, but the day before her
testimony, she told the prosecutor for the first time that
she would testify that Lai told her he had been attacked and
robbed. Though Masters admitted she never told the police or
prosecutor about Lai's claim in the three years the case
was pending, she explained she had just remembered that
detail and pointed out that she had never been asked whether
Lai told her he was attacked. She admitted testifying in a
prior deposition that when she saw Lai after the murder, he
had a cut on his arm and he claimed he did not remember how
he got it.
first issue, Lai contends the trial court erred when it
refused to give a curative instruction and denied his motion
for a mistrial after he successfully objected to an improper
comment made during closing argument. During the course of
trial, counsel for both defendants implicitly or explicitly
suggested that the police were untruthful, the prosecutor
pressured witnesses to testify in the State's favor, and
the police and prosecutor may have concealed evidence. During
the State's rebuttal closing, the prosecutor ...