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Roberts v. State

Florida Court of Appeals, First District

August 23, 2019

Cameron Dominque Roberts, 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 Alachua County. William E. Davis, Judge.

          Andy Thomas, Public Defender, and M. J. Lord, Assistant Public Defender, Tallahassee, for Appellant.

          Ashley Moody, Attorney General, and Julian E. Markham, Assistant Attorney General, Tallahassee, for Appellee.

          Per Curiam.

         Cameron Dominque Roberts appeals his convictions for robbery with a firearm and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Roberts argues that the trial court committed six reversible errors. Finding no merit in any of these arguments, we affirm.

         Facts

         The charges against Roberts arose from a failed drug transaction. Roberts' sister, Ebony Young, arranged to purchase two ounces of marijuana from the victim and agreed on a location to meet the victim. Young arrived at the planned location with Roberts. Roberts and the victim argued over the price and the quality of the marijuana. The argument became physical, and the victim suffered an injury to his face. Roberts and Young took the marijuana without paying for it and left the area. Roberts was arrested three weeks later.

         Motions in Limine

         Before trial, Roberts filed two motions in limine. First, he sought to exclude evidence about the circumstances surrounding his arrest. Defense counsel argued that the dramatic circumstances of the arrest, which involved a SWAT team and the Marshals Service, were not relevant to the charges against Roberts and that admission of evidence about the arrest would be highly prejudicial. The State responded that the events surrounding Roberts' arrest were relevant because they showed consciousness of guilt. The court denied the motion.

         Second, Roberts sought to prevent law enforcement officers from opining that the injury to the victim's face appeared to have been caused by a strike from the barrel of a shotgun. The State proffered the testimony of Detective Tom Mullins to establish that Mullins had detailed knowledge about shotguns. The trial court denied the motion, ruling that Mullins could testify about the size and shape of the injury, his personal experience with shotguns, and the diameter of the barrels of different gauges of shotguns. But the court barred the prosecutor from asking Mullins if the wound to the victim's face looked as if it had been caused by a strike from the barrel of a shotgun.

         Jury Selection

         During the selection process, the State asked to use a preemptory strike on Prospective Juror Beckman. Because she was the only African American on the panel, defense counsel asked for a race-neutral reason for the strike. The State responded that it was striking Beckman because she did not understand a hypothetical about the burden of proof and because of her knowledge of marijuana prices. Defense counsel argued that the State's reasons were not genuine because several prospective jurors were knowledgeable about marijuana, including a juror accepted by the State. Defense counsel contended that proper jury instructions on the burden of proof would resolve any confusion caused by the hypothetical. The State replied that the purpose of the question concerning the burden of proof was to determine whether a prospective juror could follow the example and reach the correct conclusion; Beckman was unable to do so. The trial court found that the State provided a genuine race-neutral reason for the strike.

         Trial

         The victim testified that he had sold marijuana to Ebony Young in the past and that he agreed to sell to her on the day in question. Young arrived at the planned location with an unknown male passenger. After the victim gave Young the marijuana, the unknown male pulled out a shotgun and pointed it at the victim's face. The victim tried to grab the marijuana, but the man hit the victim in the face with the barrel of the shotgun. The victim sustained a cut under his eye from the strike. After the incident, the victim learned that the man with Young was her brother, Cameron Roberts.

         On cross, the victim denied owning any firearms. He also testified that he agreed to enter a no contest plea for his probation violation in exchange for the State dropping three felony charges against him. When defense counsel sought to elicit testimony about the dropped charges, the prosecutor objected. Defense counsel argued that the nature of the offenses was relevant because the victim denied owning any firearms, yet he was arrested for carrying a concealed firearm. The court found that the victim's arrest for a firearm offense was not relevant because it occurred five days after the robbery.

         Detective Tom Mullins testified that he had professional training and experience with firearms over the past twenty-two years of his law enforcement career. He also had personal experience with firearms because he started hunting at a young age and owned several firearms. During an interview with the victim nine days after the robbery, Mullins observed the injury to the victim's face. He also reviewed photographs of the injury taken on the night of the robbery. Mullins described the injury as semicircular, like an arc. He explained that the diameter of a twelve-gauge shotgun barrel was roughly the size of a nickel or just under three-quarters of an inch and that the diameter of the barrel would increase or decrease based on the gauge of the shotgun. Mullins clarified that he could not say that a shotgun caused the victim's injury.

         The State then called Ebony Young. Young remembered a "stick-like figure" by Roberts' seat on the night in question. She recalled that Roberts asked questions about the victim during the drive, but she testified that she could not remember the details of their conversation. The prosecutor tried to refresh her recollection by using her sworn statement, but Young insisted that she did not remember what was said. Young agreed that her memory was better when she gave a sworn statement at the prosecutor's office ten days after the robbery, and she agreed that the statement she gave then was truthful. Over defense counsel's objection, the trial court allowed the ...


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