Articles Posted in Battery

broom.jpgSo, the question for the day is a simple one: can a broomstick be a deadly weapon? Well, of course it can, in the hands of a kung fu master like Bruce Lee. Apparently, Bruce Lee can kill with a feather. But, if Bruce Lee is the standard–everything on earth is a deadly weapon. But in real life, the courts have applied a different standard. Let’s take a look.

In Brevard County, Brandon Brown was convicted of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. You lawyers out there know that the bad thing about aggravated battery is that it is a level seven (7) offense, scoring 56 points on a score sheet (any score above 44 points translates into a mandatory prison sentence, ouch). Brown appealed his conviction for aggravated battery, in Brown v. State, 86 So.3d 569 (Fla. 5th DCA 2012). Here’s what happened.

Brown is alleged to have used to “hollow, flimsy, plastic broomstick” to batter his former girlfriend. She sustained no injuries, though did testify that the hits were very painful. In the middle of the jury trial, Brown’s defense attorney asked the judge to dismiss the aggravated battery charge because the prosecutor never introduced into evidence the broomsticks–not even photographs, and further argued that the broomsticks did not meet the definition of “deadly weapon”. For some unknown reason, the judge denied the defense lawyer’s motion to dismiss. After the judge denied Brown a dismissal, Brown took the stand and testified to battering the victim with the plastic broomsticks. Brown’s defense attorney again moved for dismissal. Again, denied.
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hand_on_a_bible.jpgWe’re continuing our series on Violations of Probation (VOP). It’s in the air here in Orlando, so why fight it? The focus today is on the money making mandatory counseling sessions that come along with some probation sentences.

“Any recommended treatment or counseling” is a common phrase used by judges, and it translates: “you’re about to pay a boat load of money, and time, to some counseling program that has no real incentive to release you”. Imagine being in a business where you can dictate how long a citizen must continue to make monthly payments to your company–or they go to jail! Sounds like the business model of Big Pharmaceutical companies that would rather have patients on a monthly pill popping program than find a cure.

Don’t get me wrong. Many defendants need counseling. Many human beings need counseling. But, every single DUI conviction comes with alcohol treatment and counseling–even if no alcohol was found in the person’s system! Does that even make sense? No, but it makes money. Yes, we need to help the defendants that truly have an addiction, and find a way to weed out those who don’t.

For example, every person convicted of domestic violence battery must attend and complete a batterers intervention program. No problems there, right? Wrong. This program requires the ‘participant’ to admit to having battered another human being. Participation requires an admission of guilt. That’s when a probationer is faced with the decision to simply lie and complete the treatment–or tell the truth and be terminated from the treatment. Of course, termination from treatment will then violate probation, and a probation violation carries an arrest plus jail or prison time. So, what do you do?

Let’s rewind to see what gets a person into a treatment program in the first place. For many, a crime was committed and they’re paying the price. However, not everyone who enters a plea is guilty. Many folks chose to enter a no contest plea rather than risk losing everything after a trial. For those of you who don’t know, the increase in mandatory minimum sentences (especially for trafficking in oxycodone cases) has made it more common for innocent defendants to enter a plea rather than risk mandatory prison time over $50 worth of pills.

The problem is, that the “treatment” program that comes along with a guilty plea also requires an admission of guilt. So, if a defendant doesn’t want to risk mandatory jail on a domestic battery charge, a guilty plea will require counseling. But, the batterers intervention counseling program requires an admission that, yes, you have beaten your wife/girlfriend/etc. if you tell the truth–that you are innocent and simply entered a plea so as to not lose your job/home/sanity–they’ll terminate the treatment and that termination will send you to jail on a violation of probation!? A classic Catch 22. It happens more often than you think. Let’s take a look at a few cases in which the defendant’s stood up to the treatment programs, told the truth, and were sent to jail.
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punch3.jpgOrlando sees it’s fair share of battery arrests. It’s sad, really (especially those teenagers videotaping gang beatings–what is this world coming to?). But to make matters worse, prosecutors tend to overcharge fights, erring on the side of charging Aggravated Battery Causing Great Bodily Harm, rather than charging the lower offense of misdemeanor battery. So, where do we draw the line in determining what type of injury constitutes a misdemeanor battery, and what type of injury is “great bodily harm?” Let’s dig right in….

Our focus today is the recent case of Gordon v. State, 2011 WL 6016913 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2011). Gordon was convicted after trial of attempted second-degree murder and aggravated battery, he was accused of hitting his girlfriend with his hand and with a belt, causing bruises on her body. His girlfriend did not seek medical treatment, and the bruises eventually healed. Is this “great bodily harm?”
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punch.jpgSome would say that you haven’t lived until you’ve been punched in the face. Well, then let me continue “not living”….But if you feel the urge to punch “someone” in the face, maybe it shouldn’t be the same person that is defending your life. Just a suggestion.

Our case de jour is Jones v. State, 36 F.L.W. D1980 (Fla. 4th DCA 2011). Jones was sentenced to life in prison for sexual battery against a six year old girl. Naturally, Jones blamed his lawyer for the sentence, and filed a 3.850 ineffective assistance of counsel claim against him. The beauty of a 3.850 claim is that, if granted, the sentence is overturned and the case starts over. Actually, the court hearing Jone’s motion had noted that Jones filed “excessive postconviction motions” and “raised many repetitive, meritless, and frivolous claims.” Id. One such claim was the fact that, if the defendant had testified at trial, “he would have testified regarding a sexually-transmitted disease he had acquired in the past and that the victim would have gotten this disease if he had committed the acts.” Id.

Jones tried to fire his appointed lawyer in the middle of the hearing, but was denied. So, the defendant “summoned his postconviction counsel to his side under the pretense that he wanted to speak with him. Appellant then struck counsel in the face with a closed fist. Appellant was subdued by deputies and removed from the courtroom. The evidentiary hearing proceeded with his court-appointed postconviction counsel and without appellant.” Jones had a smart judge that was not falling for the courtroom antics.
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jail wire.jpgIt seems as though sex offenders should officially be labeled as “the least of our brothers”, for those of you with a Christian viewpoint. Think about it–they’re the lepers of modern society. Sex offenders cannot live in most places due to residential restrictions, even though they’ve finished their sentence entirely! As if the problems of a sex offender conviction are not enough, it now appears as though these folks are not getting a fair trial on the front end. Here’s a case in point.

Recently, Mr. Yosvani Torres was charged with sexual battery in Torres v. State of Florida, 2011 WL 148322 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2011, 1/19/11), and the trial judge allowed the state to present “Williams Rule evidence” of Mr. Torres allegedly touching the breasts and vagina of another person back in 1998 (even though charges were never filed). To add insult to injury, the trial judge also allowed this witness (now age 20) to testify about the emotional impact of this alleged episode of 13+ years prior. Just to give some perspective here, remember that emotional impact testimony is reserved for the sentencing phase of a trial, this type of testimony has no business being introduced to show that an accused is ‘guilty’. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happen. The appellate court upheld the trial court’s decision to allow the victim impact testimony–but not without some harsh words from dissenting Judge J. Ramirez.
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