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 Escambia County. Thomas V.
Thomas, Public Defender, and Megan Long, Assistant Public
Defender, Tallahassee, for Appellant.
Moody, Attorney General, and Heather Flanagan Ross, Assistant
Attorney General, Tallahassee, for Appellee.
has appealed his judgment and sentences for shooting at or
into an occupied vehicle and aggravated assault by threat
with a deadly weapon. See §§ 790.19 &
784.021(1)(a), Fla. Stat. (2016). We affirm both points
raised by Appellant. Only one of those points merits
concluding her rebuttal closing argument, the prosecutor
Now, you have seen the evidence, you have heard the
testimony, and you are going to have all the evidence and
testimony to take back with you. The only thing left to do in
this instance is to apply the law the judge gives you to the
facts and the testimony and return a verdict that truth
dictates and justice demands, and that is that this defendant
is guilty as charged on both counts.
defense counsel asked the trial court if they could approach
the bench, whereupon counsel moved for a mistrial. Counsel
argued that the emphasized portion of the prosecutor's
statement improperly apprised the jury of the State's
opinion as to guilt, to which the jury would accord an
inordinate and prejudicial amount of weight in deliberating
the question of Appellant's guilt or innocence. The trial
court denied the motion, explaining that, when viewed in
context, the statement was relevant to what the State's
evidence showed, and, to the extent "the word
'evidence' wasn't mentioned in that
sentence," the court announced the statement was not so
pervasive or repetitive "as to be a basis or even close
to a mistrial." We agree.
review the denial of a motion for mistrial for an abuse of
discretion. Jenkins v. State, 96 So.3d 1110, 1113
(Fla. 1st DCA 2012). In that context, the bar has been set
high to obtain a mistrial based on improper prosecutorial
comments: "A prosecutor's comments, to justify a
mistrial, 'must either deprive the defendant of a fair
and impartial trial, materially contribute to the conviction,
be so harmful or fundamentally tainted as to require a new
trial, or be so inflammatory that they might have influenced
the jury to reach a more severe verdict than it would have
otherwise.'" Id. (quoting Spencer v.
State, 645 So.2d 377, 383 (Fla. 1994)).
acknowledge that "[a] criminal trial is a neutral arena
wherein both sides place evidence for the jury's
consideration; the role of counsel in closing argument is to
assist the jury in analyzing that evidence, not to obscure
the jury's view with personal opinion, emotion, and
nonrecord evidence[.]" Ruiz v. State, 743 So.2d
1, 4 (Fla. 1999) (citing United State v. Garza, 608
F.2d 659, 662-63 (5th Cir. 1979)). Consequently, a prosecutor
cannot, in closing arguments, imply that the State would not
be prosecuting anyone who was not guilty or call the
defendant a liar. Id. at 5 (citing Hall v.
United States, 419 F.2d 582 (5th Cir. 1969)).
[A] bedrock principle of our criminal justice system is that
every effort must be made in any trial . . . to ensure that
the jurors base their decision, not on sympathy for the
victim or prejudice against the defendant, but solely on the
facts elicited during trial and the law instructed by the
trial court. The State's burden is to prove the elements
of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. When the State
instead uses closing argument to appeal to the jury's
sense of outrage at what happened to the victim and asks the
jurors to return a verdict that brings "justice" to
the victim, the State perverts the purpose of closing
argument and engages in the very type of argument that has
been repeatedly condemned as antithetical to the foundation
of our criminal justice system that guarantees a fair trial
to every accused.
Cardona v. State, 185 So.3d 514, 519-20 (Fla. 2016).
Thus, a prosecutor is prohibited from making repeated
references asking for "justice" for the victim,
"regardless of whether the case involves 
heart-wrenching circumstances." Id. at 520. The
supreme court in Cardona stressed that such remarks
are "the most egregious category of clearly improper
closing argument" because they "improperly