The Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees the right to a fair and impartial trial. The Sixth Amendment is made applicable to the States, including Florida, via the Fourteenth Amendment. Pursuant to Rule 3.600(b)(8) of the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure, a Florida Criminal Defendant shall be granted a new trial if:
- he did not receive a fair and impartial trial;
- this was not due to the defendant’s own actions; and
- the defendant’s substantial rights were prejudiced.
The Florida Second District Court of Appeals filed an opinion on January 6, 2010 addressing the issue of whether a Florida trial court judge “departed from its required position of neutrality thereby denying [the defendant] his right to a fair trial.” In Seago v. State, this Florida appellate court ruled that the trial judge was not neutral an impartial and departed from his role. Instead, the judge acted as second prosecutor when he began questioning a witness about her failure to remember events associated with this Florida armed robbery trial. The judges “improper conduct suggested to the witness that her testimony should be identical to that of a pretrial deposition, in which she named Mr. Seago as the offender.” Thus, Mr. Seago’s substantial rights were prejudice, as he was identified. Due to the Florida judges actions, the Florida Second District Court of Appeals granted Mr. Seago a new trial.