FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE REHEARING MOTION AND, IF
Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the Circuit Court for
Highlands County; Peter F. Estrada, Judge.
Moody, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and Elba Caridad
Martin, Assistant Attorney General, Tampa, for Petitioner.
K. Payne of Kemper Payne Law P.A., Sebring, for Respondent.
State seeks certiorari review of a pretrial order denying its
request to offer Williams rule evidence in its
prosecution against Robert Lincoln for lewd molestation and
child abuse. We conclude that the circuit court departed from
the essential requirements of the law by applying a standard
that was abrogated by section 90.404(2)(b), Florida Statutes
(2001). This would result in the State suffering irreparable
injury by depriving the State of crucial evidence that would
have corroborated the victim's testimony. Accordingly, we
grant the petition.
The Williams rule before the enactment of section
the Williams rule as established in 1959,
"[R]elevant evidence will not be excluded
merely because it relates to similar facts which
point to the commission of a separate crime." McLean
v. State, 934 So.2d 1248, 1255 (Fla. 2006) (alteration
in original) (quoting Williams v. State, 110 So.2d
654, 659-60 (Fla. 1959)). However, similar fact evidence of a
collateral crime is prejudicial because it creates the risk
of a jury convicting the defendant based on his propensity to
commit crimes instead of his guilt of the charged offense.
Id. (citing Heuring v. State, 513 So.2d
122, 124 (Fla. 1987)). Thus, similar crime evidence is
generally subject to "a strict standard of
relevance." Id. (quoting Heuring, 513
So.2d at 124).
cases where collateral crime evidence is relevant to
establish the identity of the perpetrator, the supreme court
has required " 'identifiable points of
similarity' between the collateral act and charged crime
that 'have some special character or be so unusual as to
point to the defendant.' " Id. (quoting
Drake v. State, 400 So.2d 1217, 1219 (Fla. 1981)).
" '[S]ubstantial similarity' is also required
'when the [collateral crime] evidence is sought to be
admitted for the specific purpose of establishing absence of
mistake or accident.' " Id. (alteration in
original) (quoting Robertson v. State, 829 So.2d
901, 909 (Fla. 2002)).
course, in considering the admissibility of collateral crime
evidence under the Williams rule, courts must also
determine whether "its probative value is substantially
outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of
issues, misleading the jury, or needless presentation of
cumulative evidence" as required by section 90.403.
McLean, 934 So.2d at 1256 (quoting § 90.403).
"Thus, the similarity of the collateral act and charged
offense goes to both the preliminary determination of
relevancy and to the evidence's probative value."
Id. at 1255.
1987, the supreme court held that in cases involving sexual
battery within a familial setting, collateral crime evidence
of a prior sexual battery within a familial setting is
relevant to corroborate the victim's testimony. See
id. at 1256-57 (citing Heuring, 513 So.2d at
124). The Heuring court had discussed a relaxed
standard of admissibility for collateral crime evidence in
such cases. See id. at 1257.
describing this relaxed standard of admissibility, the
supreme court explained as follows:
[W]hen the collateral sex crime and the charged offense both
occur in the familial context, this constitutes a significant
similarity for purposes of the Williams rule, but .
. . these facts, standing alone, are insufficient to
authorize admission of the collateral sex crime evidence.
There must be some additional showing of similarity in
order for the collateral sex crime evidence to be
admissible. The additional showing of similarity will
vary depending on the facts of the case and must be
determined on a case-by-case basis. Thus, we do not eliminate
the requirement of similarity which undergirds the
Williams rule. However, the strict similarity in
the nature of the offenses and the circumstances surrounding
their commission which would be required in cases occurring
outside the familial context is relaxed by virtue of the
evidence proving that both crimes were committed in the
Id. at 1257-58 (emphasis added) (quoting Saffor
v. State, 660 So.2d 668, 672 (Fla. 1995)). In 1994, the
court extended Heuring to allow for the admission of
collateral crime evidence in sexual battery cases outside the
familial context when there is no issue regarding the
defendant's identity. Id. at 1257 (citing
State v. Rawls, 649 So.2d 1350, 1354 (Fla. 1994)).
But it ...