Florida Supreme Court – Criminal Headnotes – July 12, 2018
ROBIN EUSTACHE V. STATE OF FLORIDA – PROBATION VIOLATION; SENTENCING UNDER YOUTHFUL OFFENDER CAP OR ADULT MANDATORY MINIMUM
Review of a decision of the 4th District appeals court on the certified question, whether a defendant who had been sentenced to probation as a youthful offender, and whose probation was later revoked for a substantive violation, must then be sentenced to the minimum mandatory for adults for the underlying offense, here ten years for robbery with a firearm.
The appeals court affirmed the ten-year sentence, while noting a conflict with the decision of the 5th District appeals court in Christian v. State, 84 So. 3d 437 (Fla. 5th DCA 2012), which had held that a minimum mandatory sentence cannot be imposed on a defendant who violates youthful offender supervision.
The supreme court quashed the opinion below, finding that the trial court had acted under a mistaken belief that it could not impose another youthful offender sentence, with no minimum mandatory term of incarceration. However, the court also disapproved Christian. On remand, the court said, the trial court could either impose another youth offender sentence or an adult sentence, with the minimum mandatory term.
Justice Pariente, dissenting in part, argued that the trial court on remand should have a third option, to sentence the defendant as an adult, but without the mandatory minimum, while preserving to the defendant the other benefits of youthful offender status. The court itself had suggested as much, he said, in State v. Arnette, 604 So. 2d 482, (Fla. 1992).
STATE OF FLORIDA V. BUDRY MICHEL – LIFE SENTENCE OF MINOR WITH POSSIBILITY OF PAROLE AFTER 25 YEARS; NO MILLER VIOLATION IN LIGHT OF LEBLANC
Review of a decision of 4th District appeals court for certified conflict with two decisions of 5th District.
The issue was whether a defendant who had been sentenced as a minor to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years prior to the decisions in Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48 (2010), and Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), and subsequent revisions to Florida’s sentencing statute, is entitled to a resentencing hearing in light of Atwell v. State, 197 So.3d 1040 (Fla. 2016).
The 4th District determined that he was, but noted conflict with two decisions of the 5th District appeals court, Stallings v. State, 198 So. 3d 1081 (Fla. 5th DCA 2016), and Williams v. State, 198 So. 3d 1084 (Fla. 5th DCA 2016), both saying that relief under Miller and Atwell would depend on the defendant’s presumptive parole release date. The 4th District read Atwell as requiring a resentencing hearing in any event.
Abandoning the decision in Atwell, a plurality of the court quashed the opinion below and approved the decisions in Stallings and Williams. The more recent decision in Virginia v. LeBlanc, 137 S.Ct. 1726 (2017), the plurality said, had “clarified” that the Eighth Amendment does not require that the state actually release a juvenile offender during his natural life, but only that it provide “some meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation.”
LeBlanc was a per curiam opinion, reversing a federal appeals court decision that had affirmed the grant of a petition for habeas corpus, finding that a decision of the Virginia state supreme court that the state’s geriatric release program satisfied the requirements of Graham and Miller, and its summary denial of the defendant’s appeal based on that decision, were “unreasonable.”
In light of LeBlanc, the plurality disavowed the Atwell decision and ruled that the defendant here was not entitled to a resentencing hearing. He would have a “meaningful opportunity to obtain release” in a few years, when he had served 25 years, and if he was not then released he would have further opportunities every seven years thereafter.
Justice Pariente filed a lengthy dissent in which Justices Quince and Labarga joined.
He pointed out that the defendant in Atwell would, as a result of that ruling, be entitled to a new sentencing hearing at which his youth at the time he committed his offense would be among the factors considered in determining the appropriate sentence. The sentencing court might impose a term of years, rather than a life sentence. The sentence would be reviewed when he had served 25 years in a hearing presided over by a trial judge. Atwell would have a right to be present, to be represented, and to offer evidence to support his claim to release based on maturity and rehabilitation.
By contrast, as a result of the present ruling Michel would remain sentenced to life, with the review of his sentence presided over by a parole commission. He would not have a right to be present, nor to be represented, nor to offer evidence in support of his release. The commission would not be required to consider the Miller factors, and Michel would have no opportunity — ever — to pursue his Eighth Amendment claim.
The dissent argued that none of the factors justifying a retreat from precedent was present here. Atwell had not proved “unworkable,” its reversal was likely to be disruptive, and the decision in LeBlanc did not clearly require it.
LeBlanc, the dissent noted, was limited to a determination that it was “not objectively unreasonable” for the Virginia state supreme court to have found that state’s geriatric release program compliant with Graham. The issue was whether the federal appeals court had intruded on the authority of the state court — not whether the state court decision was itself correct.
DIEGO TAMBRIZ-RAMIREZ V. STATE OF FLORIDA – DOUBLE JEOPARDY; AGGRAVATED ASSAULT, ATTEMPTED SEXUAL BATTERY NOT “SUBSUMED” IN BURGLARY WITH ASSAULT OR BATTERY
Review of a decision of 4th District appeals court for certified conflict with multiple decisions of the 5th and 1st Districts.
The issue was “whether convictions for aggravated assault, attempted sexual battery, and burglary with an assault or battery, which arose during a single criminal episode, violate the prohibition against double jeopardy.”
The appeals court determined this question in the negative, arguing that the aggravated assault and sexual battery charges were not “subsumed” within the “burglary with” charge, as each of these required proof of an element the others did not.
The supreme court agreed, approving the 4th District appeals court’s decision and disapproving the conflicting decisions from other districts.
Justice Quince dissented, arguing that the aggravated assault charge is in fact “subsumed” within the “burglary with” charge. Burglary requires entering a dwelling, while aggravated assault does not, but there are no elements of aggravated assault that are not included in the “burglary with” charge.
FRANCISCO RODRIGUEZ V. STATE OF FLORIDA – HARMLESS ERROR; STANDARD OF REVIEW
The appeals court, in analyzing a claim that the trial court had erred in admitting hearsay testimony, had cited section 59.041 of the Florida statutes, which frames the question in terms of whether a “miscarriage of justice” has occurred. The decision in Lee quotes at some length from State v. DiGiulio, 491 So. 2d 1129 (Fla. 1986), to the effect that the burden is on the state to show beyond a reasonable doubt that the error did not affect the verdict.
The court quashed the opinion below and remanded for reconsideration “under the correct harmless error standard.”
Justice Polston dissented briefly, noting that he would have declined jurisdiction because the decision below does not recite sufficient facts or give enough analysis to determine whether application of the “miscarriage of justice” standard might have met the requirements of Lee and DiGiulio in the particular circumstances.