The Florida Law Weekly published an opinion from the Florida Fourth District Court of Appeals. The Florida Court had to decide “whether the trial court committed reversible error by answering a question from the jury without first consulting the defense attorney and prosecuting attorney.” Pearson v. State, 36 Fla. L. Weekly D1156a.pdfThe Florida Criminal Defendant was on trial for sale of cocaine within 1000 feet of a park and possession of cocaine. While deliberating, the jury asking for a definition for “abiding conviction of guilt” which was a phrase used in the standard jury instructions. The Florida judge went into a lengthy discussion about this phrase and the reasonable doubt standard without first discussing it with counsel for the Florida Criminal Defense Attorney and the State Attorney. Afterwards, he asked the attorneys if they had any objection, and the Florida Criminal Defense Attorney objected.
Rule 3.410, Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure, states that jury instructions “shall be given and the testimony read only after notice to the prosecuting attorney and to counsel for the defendant.” The Florida trial court gave clarification to the jury without affording defense counsel a meaningful opportunity to have input. It was not sufficient that the court later asked if the defense attorney had any objections to the trial court’s statements. Therefore, the Florida Criminal Defendant is entitled to a new trial.