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Wright v. State

Florida Court of Appeals, First District

August 16, 2019

Tanshanny T. Wright, Appellant,
v.
State of Florida, Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of any timely and authorized motion under Fla. R. App. P. 9.330 or 9.331.

          On appeal from the Circuit Court for Leon County. James C. Hankinson, Judge.

          Candice Kaye Brower, Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel, and Melissa Joy Ford, Assistant Regional Conflict Counsel, Tallahassee, for Appellant.

          Ashley Moody, Attorney General, and Amanda D. Stokes, Assistant Attorney General, Tallahassee, for Appellee.

          Lewis, J.

         Appellant, Tanshanny T. Wright, appeals his convictions for burglary of a structure with person assaulted (Count 1), criminal mischief (Count 2), and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon (Count 3). He argues that the trial court abused its discretion by instructing the jury to disregard his testimony. We disagree and affirm.

         BACKGROUND

         At Appellant's jury trial, the victim testified that he was working at Zaxby's as part of his manager training when he noticed Appellant leaning over the registers and yelling at Ms. Godwin, one of the employees. Appellant then walked through the employee door that blocked the public's entry and walked down the cashier aisle. The victim asked Appellant to leave because he was not supposed to be behind the counter. Appellant initially ignored the victim, but then started threatening him, saying, "I've killed people before like you." Appellant pulled out a pocketknife and threw it at the victim while still yelling and looking directly at him. The victim was scared and ducked to avoid being hit with the knife, which landed a couple of feet from him. Appellant then went to the drive-through window, where he continued to try to attack the victim and smashed the window. The incident was captured by the restaurant's surveillance cameras, without sound, and the video recording of it was admitted into evidence.

         Appellant testified on direct examination that he went to Zaxby's to get some keys from Godwin, his child's mother. When he asked Godwin for the keys at the register, she told him to go behind the counter to get them from her. Appellant entered the back area in order to get the keys, but once there, he had an altercation with the victim. Appellant pulled a pocketknife because he was in a rush to see his child and was very frustrated, and the victim "kind of like put his hands on" him and "there was another employee coming behind [him]." Appellant had no intention of hurting anyone with the knife and threw it "to the wall," not at anybody, "just out of frustration" because he was "really agitated trying to get the keys." Upon leaving the restaurant, Appellant went to the drive-through where Godwin worked to get the keys, but the victim slammed the window in his face, and he, in turn, hit the glass "out of frustration." Appellant had two prior felony convictions.

         On cross-examination, Appellant testified that Godwin told him to go behind the counter to get the keys and tried to give them to him, but the victim did not know that and intervened. Appellant denied threatening the victim and insisted that he threw the knife at the wall. The trial court instructed Appellant four times to stop interrupting and posing questions to the prosecutor, but he continued to do so, at which point the court told him to be quiet. In turn, Appellant repeatedly stated that it was his life on the line, ignoring the court's continued instruction that he be quiet. Appellant stated that "[t]his isn't a burglary," and when the court warned him that he would be removed from the stand, he again commented that it was his life on the line. At that point, the court told Appellant to be quiet, instructed the jury to disregard his comments, and explained that every witness has to be subject to cross-examination and the State was entitled to answers to its questions. The court also warned Appellant that if he could not properly answer questions, it would instruct the jury to disregard his testimony. Appellant indicated that he would answer the questions, but before long, he started to make comments when there were not any questions pending, including that "y'all are playing with my life. My life is no joke," "[t]hat's not burglary," and "I didn't throw that knife at nobody," over the court's repeated instruction that he stop it. Appellant even stated that he was "done talking" and wished to "sit back down."

         After asking the jury to step out of the courtroom, the trial court explained to Appellant that he was subject to reasonable questions from the State and had to answer those questions. The court twice more warned Appellant that it was going to tell the jury to disregard his testimony in its entirety if he was not going to answer the State's questions, and he responded that he understood and would answer the questions. Defense counsel did not want to be heard and declined an opportunity to talk with Appellant. When the jury returned, cross-examination resumed as follows:

[STATE]: Now __
[APPELLANT]: I told him I'm coming back there to get __
[COURT]: Mr. Wright, there is not a question. She'll ask you a question. Ms. Surace [prosecutor], play what it is you want to play and then go back to ...

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