Criminal Court: CRIMINAL LAW – Jury Trial/Evidence – hearsay
– trial court did not err in admitting officer’s statements of what accuser
reported to officer – statements were not offered to prove truth of the matter
but rather to show effect on listener – statements were relevant as State
was required to show that officer was engaged in lawful execution of a legal
duty – Conviction affirmed. Thomas
v. State, No. 02-17298 (
Criminal Court: CRIMINAL LAW – Jury Trial/Evidence – admission
into evidence of post-arrest statements – trial court did not err in admitting
post-arrest statements into evidence – statements were relevant as State was
required to show that defendant was continually engaged in escape behavior
– statements were properly admitted as admissions or statements against interest
– even if statements were improper, the effect was harmless in light of other
evidence adduced – Conviction affirmed. Thomas v. State, No. 02-17298 (
THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE SIXTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT OF THE STATE OF
JAMES R. THOMAS,
vs. APPEAL NO: CRC02-17298CFANO
Opinion filed June _____, 2003.
Appeal from a decision of the
Sonny Im, Judge.
Maribeth L. Wetzel, Esquire
Attorney for Appellant.
Erin K. Barnett, Esquire
Assistant State Attorney.
ORDER AND OPINION
In the lower court, Thomas was convicted by jury verdict of resisting an officer without violence, after which he was sentenced to twelve (12) months county jail. His argument on appeal is twofold. First, he argues that the trial court erred in permitting the State to elicit hearsay testimony from Officer Adam Geissenberger. Second, he maintains that the trial court erred in permitting the State to introduce several of his post-arrest statements. We affirm.
The following facts were adduced at trial.
Thomas was initially approached by an officer at a 7-Eleven convenience
store, apparently in response to a 911 call that he placed concerning an individual
named Ryan Van Buren, who allegedly pointed a gun in his face. Meanwhile, a second officer, Officer Geissenberger,
responded to the residence of Tiffany Walker, who separately complained of
a residential burglary. Upon discovering
a connection between Thomas and Walker, law enforcement subsequently escorted
Thomas back to
Thomas, after being arrested and while sitting handcuffed in the rear of the
police cruiser, called
In order to sustain its burden at trial,
the State was required to prove that a law enforcement officer was engaged in the lawful execution of a legal duty, and that
Thomas resisted, obstructed, or opposed that officer. § 843.02,
Based on our review of the record,
we find no abuse of discretion in the trial judge’s decision to permit Officer
Geissenberger’s testimony concerning the substance of
We note that the trial judge gave defense
counsel the option of keeping out the contents of
Finally, according to Officer Geissenberger’s testimony at trial,
As for Thomas’ second issue, that the trial court improperly permitted the State to admit several of his post-arrest statements, we similarly find no error. At trial, Officer Geissenberger testified that Thomas, at the hospital, “began to speak candidly about his experiences and whatnot. He made numerous statements about flight, attempted flight, what would happen if he did run.” Specifically, according to Officer Geissenberger, Thomas uttered the following statements (in no particular order):
“When I run, you’ll never catch me. I’m so slick that I have a driver’s license and a social security number in another name. I’ll move to another state and you will never find me. I will not back down from you, other officers, the judge, the jury, or anything. If I wanted to escape from you two, I could right. I will get revenge, not on officers. That’s all I’m going to say.” [Thomas also requested that Officer Geissenberger give him another chance to escape by removing the leg irons from his person.]
Prior to trial, the State argued that the statements were relevant because they: (1) “showed his continual attempt to escape and resist arrest and get out of the police’s custody”; (2) “in addition, each of these statements is continual and in the continual stream of what happened”; (3) “they were admissions to his resisting and to his attempt to escape”; and (4) “in these statements he was telling the officers, you know, give me a head start. I can do this. Like I’ve been trying to all night.”
Conversely, defense counsel argued that “none of these statements are admissions to a fact which would prove the resisting arrest without violence,” and that the statements were irrelevant under section 90.401 and prejudicial under section 90.403. On appeal, Thomas argues that the statements were uttered long after his arrest and were therefore immaterial; in support of this argument, he cites to Carillo v. State, 727 So. 2d 1047 (Fla. 2d DCA 1999).
an altercation arose between the defendant and his girlfriend in their residence,
during which the defendant raised a chair above his head in a threatening
We find Carillo to be distinguishable from the case at bar. Whereas in Carillo the statements were made an hour after the argument had dissipated, here, the offense of resisting was continual. During and subsequent to his arrest, Thomas committed several acts that were inextricably intertwined, as described above. His statements in the hospital were part and parcel with his resisting and his attempts to escape, were indicative of his state of mind, and were uttered close in time to his last act of resistance and/or his last attempt to escape.
conclusion, after reviewing the statements in context, we find that the statements
were properly admitted as admissions or statements against interest, and we
agree with the trial judge who concluded that the statements were against
self-interest and “certainly show[ed] motivation, [and] intent on the part
of the defendant.” § 90.803(18),
even if the statements should not have been admitted, we would find their
admission to be harmless error in light of the other evidence adduced at trial.
Gore v. State, 719 So. 2d 1197 (
AND ORDERED in Chambers, at
JOHN A. SCHAEFER, Circuit Judge
W. DOUGLAS BAIRD, Circuit Judge
NANCY MOATE LEY, Circuit Judge
cc: Maribeth L. Wetzel, Assistant Public Defender
Erin K. Barnett, Assistant State Attorney