County Criminal Court : CRIMINAL LAW – Jury Trial/Evidence – Prior bad acts – Inquiry of a witness about the defendant’s prior bad acts was proper where the defendant opened the door to the line of questioning and the witness’s answers would have left the jury with incomplete and misleading information. Resulting testimony was not inadmissible character evidence in violation of §90.404(1) Fla. Stat. Trial court’s judgment and sentence affirmed. Satiny v. State, No. CRC08-00048APANO (Fla. 6th Cir.App.Ct. March 4, 2009).
IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE SIXTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
OF THE STATE OF
v. Appeal No. CRC 08-00048 APANO
Opinion filed March 4, 2009.
Appeal from a judgment and sentence
entered by the Pinellas County Court
County Judge Robert G. Dittmer
Kimberly Nolen Hopkins, Esquire
Attorney for Appellant
James Earl Peterson, Esquire
Attorney for Appellee
ORDER AND OPINION
THIS MATTER is before the Court on Appellant, Manes Satiny’s, appeal from a conviction, after a jury trial, of Battery, a first degree misdemeanor, in violation of § 784.03 (1) Fla. Stat. (2008). After review of the record and the briefs, this Court affirms the judgment and sentence.
Factual Background and Trial Court Proceedings
On December 11, 2007, a Misdemeanor
Information was filed charging the Appellant with
On June 29, 2008 a jury trial was conducted. At trial, on direct examination, the State asked Ms. Gage “before this incident, you had put in your two weeks notice, correct?” Ms. Gage responded “correct”. Appellant objected on the basis of relevancy. The State responded by arguing that it was relevant to show motive. That is, she did not create this incident as a reason to terminate her employment. The Court began to suggest that the question be rephrased in a certain way and was interrupted by Appellant’s trial counsel restating the objection of relevancy. The court then overruled the objection. At that point the State said, “I’ll leave it alone. If you open it up on cross then.” At that point, the Court interrupted and said, “(y)ou ask it however you want to. Go ahead. Overruled.” The State then said, “(i)f you open the door on cross, then I’ll readdress it.” The State made no further inquiry on that issue in direct examination.
On cross-examination, Appellant’s trial counsel questioned Ms. Gage about the reasons for posting her two week’s notice. In response to this questioning, Ms. Gage stated that she had some other issues involving her employer. Appellant’s trial counsel asked, “(a)nd that was one of the reasons why you placed your two week’s notice to leave this property?” Ms. Gage answered, “(t)hat is correct.”
On redirect examination, the State asked the Court for permission to further inquire as to why Ms. Gage had given her two weeks notice to her employer. The State argued that Appellant’s trial counsel had opened the door to such inquiry. Appellant’s trial counsel objected stating that it was the State that had been allowed to get “into the two weeks notice”. Further counsel argued, “I don’t believe we did open the door”. “And if the Court does find that we did open the door, I think the probative value is outweighed by the prejudicial effect on my client”. The Court responded by stating that Appellant’s trial counsel was the first to ask why the two week notice was given. After more argument by the parties, the Court allowed the State to ask if there were other reasons Ms. Gage decided to give the two week’s notice. In the ensuing inquiry, Ms. Gage testified that another reason Ms. Gage had given two week’s notice was because the Appellant had made inappropriate romantic overtures toward her in the past and had tried to take pictures of her with his cell phone. Ms. Gage then confirmed on re-cross that the reason that she filed her two week’s notice to terminate her employment was because of the situation involving management as well as the incidents involving Appellant.
The Appellant was found guilty by the jury of the charge contained in the Misdemeanor Information.
A. Standard of
Review. A trial judge's
rulings on the admission or exclusion of evidence are reviewed under the abuse
of discretion standard. LaMarca v. State, 785 So.2d 1209, 1212 (Fla.2001). Under the abuse of discretion standard, discretion
is abused only when the judicial action is arbitrary, fanciful, or
unreasonable, which is another way of saying that discretion is abused only
where no reasonable person would take the view adopted by the trial court.
B. Argument and Analysis. The Appellant argues the trial court erred by permitting the alleged victim to testify that she resigned from her job partly because of romantic overtures Appellant had made toward her prior to the incident giving rise to the instant charge. Appellant argues such testimony was inadmissible character evidence in violation of Florida Statute § 90.404 (1) and similar fact evidence relevant only to prove bad character or propensity in violation of Florida Statute § 90.404 (2)(a).
difficulty with this argument is that the disputed testimony was allowed only
after Appellant, with knowledge that the State would pursue the point, asked
the victim the reasons for submitting her two week employment termination
notice. In doing so, Appellant invited
and opened the door to the inquiry by the State.
“[T]he concept of ‘opening the door’ allows the admission of otherwise inadmissible testimony to ‘qualify, explain, or limit’ testimony or evidence previously admitted.” Lawrence v. State, 846 So.2d 440, 452 (Fla.2003) (quoting Rodriguez v. State, 753 So.2d 29, 42 (Fla.2000)). “The concept of ‘opening the door’ is ‘based on considerations of fairness and the truth-seeking function of a trial’ ” and without the fuller explication, the testimony that opened the door “would have been incomplete and misleading.” Lawrence, 846 So.2d at 452; see also Overton v. State, 801 So.2d 877, 900-01 (Fla.2001) (agreeing that the State is permitted to fill in the gaps in the testimony to correct a false impression left by the defendant).
For the reasons set forth above, this court concludes that the issue raised by the Appellant is without merit. The judgment and sentence of the trial court were lawfully entered and should be affirmed.
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the judgment and sentence of the trial court is affirmed.
ORDERED at Clearwater, Pinellas County, Florida this ____ day of February, 2009.
Original opinion entered by Circuit Judges Michael F. Andrews, Raymond O. Gross, & R. Timothy Peters.
cc: Honorable Robert G. Dittmer
Office of the State Attorney
Kimberly Nolen Hopkins, Esquire
 An issue that was not raised in this case
and is not part of this appeal, but which is noted is that the disputed testimony in the present case arguably
was not similar
fact evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or
acts in violation of Florida Statute § 90.404(2)(a). This rule of evidence, called the “Williams
rule”, is limited to “similar fact evidence.” Thus, evidence of
uncharged crimes which are inseparable from the crime charged, or evidence
which is inextricably intertwined with the crime charged, is not Williams
rule evidence. If such evidence is admissible, it is admissible under Florida
90.402 because “it is a relevant and inseparable part
of the act which is in issue.... [I]t is necessary to admit the evidence
to adequately describe the deed.” Griffin v. State, 639
So2d 966, 970 (
is inextricably intertwined if the evidence is necessary to (1) adequately
describe the deed, (2) provide an intelligent account of the crime(s) charged,
(3) establish the entire context out of which the charged crime(s) arose, or
(4) adequately describe the events leading up to the charged crime(s).” Scott v. State, 957 So2d
43, 44 (