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Mendez v. State

Florida Court of Appeals, Third District

August 1, 2018

Mario Mendez, 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. 17-5405 Milton Hirsch, Judge.

          Carlos J. Martinez, Public Defender, and Natasha Baker-Bradley, Assistant Public Defender, for appellant.

          Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, and Sandra Lipman, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Before EMAS, FERNANDEZ and LOGUE, JJ.

          EMAS, J.

         INTRODUCTION

         We affirm the judgment and sentence below, finding no merit in appellant's contention that the trial court abused its discretion in reading back to the jury a specific portion of the victim's trial testimony in response to a jury note sent to the judge during deliberations.

         BACKGROUND

         Mario Mendez was charged with committing an aggravated battery with great bodily harm upon Luisa Donaile, and a battery upon Ms. Donaile's fiancé, Reynaldo Araujo. It was alleged that Mendez stabbed Ms. Donaile with a knife, causing a laceration and requiring stitches.

         During her testimony, Ms. Donaile testified that Mendez and an unidentified accomplice started a knife fight and attacked her and her fiancé. Luisa testified at trial that Mendez was the person who stabbed her with a knife.

         Following presentation of the evidence and closing arguments, the jury retired to deliberate. During deliberations, the jury sent out a note to the judge, which asked: "What was Luisa's answer when asked who had stabbed her?"

         Although the jury did not expressly use the words "testimony" or "read back," the trial court concluded that the jury was requesting to have read back to them a specific portion of the testimony given by Ms. Donaile during the trial. The stenographer was able to locate the pertinent portion of the trial testimony, and the trial court determined, with the agreement of both counsel, that the identified portion of the trial testimony was directly responsive to the jury's question. Nevertheless, the defense objected to the read-back, requesting instead that the jury simply be told to rely on its recollection of the testimony. The trial court overruled the objection, stating: "I think where they have asked for in effect a read-back, they have asked for the testimony. . . I am hard-pressed to deny that to the jury. . . . I think I have to let them hear it." The jury returned to the courtroom, and the court reporter read back that portion of Ms. Donaile's testimony in response to ...


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