Antoine v. State, 4D11–2105.

CourtCourt of Appeal of Florida (US)
Citation138 So.3d 1064
Docket NumberNo. 4D11–2105.,4D11–2105.
PartiesNarcisse ANTOINE, Appellant, v. STATE of Florida, Appellee.
Decision Date07 May 2014

138 So.3d 1064

Narcisse ANTOINE, Appellant,
STATE of Florida, Appellee.

No. 4D11–2105.

District Court of Appeal of Florida,
Fourth District.

May 7, 2014.

[138 So.3d 1067]

Carey Haughwout, Public Defender, and Tatjana Ostapoff, Assistant Public Defender, West Palm Beach, for appellant.

Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and Laura Fisher, Assistant Attorney General, West Palm Beach, for appellee.


This is a case where intoxicated nightclub troublemakers picked one fight too many, leading to an unfortunate result. Following their third ejection from a nightclub, the victims engaged in a hostile verbal confrontation with a group of men leaving the club. When the defendant, Narcisse Antoine, intervened as peacemaker, the victims quickly turned their sights to him, hurling racial epithets while threatening violence. Initially, Antoine laughed it off and told them to go home. However, things escalated when Antoine was punched in the jaw and, according to Antoine, both victims appeared to reach for weapons; at that point, Antoine pulled out a gun and opened fire, killing one of the victims while hitting the other numerous times.

Antoine's trial centered upon his claim of self-defense. One issue compels reversal for a new trial—the impropriety of a jury instruction which improperly tethered evidence of a victim's reputation for violence

[138 So.3d 1068]

to the defendant's knowledge of that reputation. We will discuss three of the other issues raised insofar as they might impact a new trial.

The Charges and the Conviction

On July 30, 2009, Antoine was charged by indictment with two counts: (I) first degree murder with a firearm for the death of Brandon Hammond and (II) attempted first degree murder by actually possessing and discharging a firearm, thereby causing great bodily harm to Jeffrey Thompson. Following trial, the jury deadlocked on Count I but found Antoine guilty on Count II of the lesser included offense of attempted second degree murder with a firearm.1

The State's Case

Central to the State's case was Tyrone Slade, a bouncer at Club Mystique in West Palm Beach, who was standing next to Antoine when he shot the victims. On the night of May 31–June 1, 2009, Club Mystique hosted a “private” event for a “small group of friends.” Among the attendees were Brandon Hammond and Jeffrey Thompson, two regulars known by Slade and the club's staff. In fact, Slade was “very good friends” with Hammond's mother and sister, but he knew Hammond to have a reputation for being violent and a drunk.

On the night in question, Hammond and Thompson were three times ejected from the club due to their confrontations with patrons. In the first instance, Slade had to take Thompson outside after he persisted in “mocking” a group of men “while they were dancing on the dance floor.” When Slade told Thompson to knock it off and relax, Thompson responded that he “d[id]n't care” and that he would “fuck anybody up.” Hammond, however, reined in the situation, telling Slade they would “chill out” and “behave.” When Thompson agreed, the two were allowed to re-enter the club.

Later that night, the club's owner told Slade that Hammond and Thompson needed to leave, since “they were being fresh with some ladies in the bar.” As before, Slade talked to the two outside the bar and apparently calmed them down. However, not long thereafter, Slade was forced to eject them after they invaded a group's (“the Monarchy group”) private table area and nearly started a fight.

Despite being told to go home, Hammond and Thompson returned to the club an hour later. After parking their black BMW in a “reckless manner,” the two men approached the Monarchy group while they were leaving the club. Recognizing the prior rift, Slade asked Hammond and Thompson why they had returned. But by that point it was too late; a verbal spat had begun, with both sides threatening each other from across the street.

Antoine exited the club to this affray and told everyone to calm down. Like the victims, Slade knew Antoine from prior dealings since the two men lived in the same apartment complex. Hammond and Thompson told Antoine to “mind his business” while “[s]pewing profanity and racial slurs.” Antoine laughed it off, telling them “nobody's here to fight” or “have a problem.”

No one heeded Antoine's advice. Shortly after turning his attention to Antoine, Thompson began pacing back and forth, giving Slade the impression that he was about to sneak up and attack. Hammond

[138 So.3d 1069]

then confronted Antoine, punched him in the jaw, and split his lip. Taking a step back, Antoine handed Slade his drink and checked his lip to see if it was bleeding. Antoine then pulled out a pistol from a holster and told Thompson and Hammond to leave, prompting the two men to take a step back.

Displaying bravado, Hammond began “reaching in his pants as if he had a gun” and asked Antoine, “Or else what, nigger?” Not sure if Hammond was armed, Slade heard Antoine ask, “Do you have a gun[?][A]re you going to shoot me?” Likewise, Slade asked several times what Hammond was reaching for and cautioned, “Don't do this Brandon.”

The encounter reached a tipping point. Antoine opened fire, shooting Hammond six or seven times. Fearing Hammond or Thompson would retaliate with gunfire, Slade ran for cover behind a car. Although Slade could not actually see it transpire, he could tell that Antoine fired more shots at Thompson as Thompson ran away and rounded a corner.

When the smoke cleared, Slade asked Antoine “[w]hat the fuck [he was] doing.” After re-holstering his gun, Antoine responded that he “had to go.” He then went in the club, got his girlfriend, and drove off.

Slade's Interview with the Police

Despite being an eyewitness, Slade did not initially speak to the police because he knew everyone involved and did not want to be thrown into the middle of a murder investigation. Rather, he met with an attorney who prepared a formal statement for him, which he provided to an officer friend three days later.

In addition to the statement, Slade and his attorney spoke with officers in a recorded interview. At trial, Slade averred that, at the time of the interview, he was not overly concerned about his “liability or ... exposure to being [criminally] charged.” Defense counsel then attempted to impeach Slade by questioning him regarding comments his attorney made to him during breaks in the interview. The State objected on hearsay grounds.2

Although not presented before the jury, the gist of the conversation between Slade and his attorney involved concerns that Slade had “no choice” but to do the interview “because the police were eventually going to get him.” Slade and his attorney then went on to discuss “the fact that there are cameras throughout the area where the shooting occurred, and it was clear that eventually the police would pull those videos and would know who [Slade] was.”

At a sidebar conference, defense counsel argued that the attorney's statements were not hearsay since they were being offered to show Slade's “state of mind and specifically his motive and bias in the testimony that he presented.” Specifically, defense counsel sought to establish that Slade's “testimony [wa]s motivated by his own fear about either criminal or civil liability,” stemming from the incident. The trial court, however, sustained the hearsay objection.

Corroborating Evidence

Slade's testimony was corroborated by Raymond Harley, a nighttime security guard at a nearby parking lot. Harley testified that he was dozing off in a chair outside the parking lot when he was suddenly awakened by the sound of a BMW convertible losing control and spinning out onto the sidewalk. Wondering what was going on, Harley stepped away from his post and watched from afar as the car

[138 So.3d 1070]

drove erratically before parking alongside Club Mystique.

From the outside, Harley could tell that the driver of the vehicle and his passenger were “looking for trouble,” as they were “harassing a couple of people who worked there and some of the customers” who had come from the inside. Harley heard the two say, “We'll mess you all up, F you all.”

When Antoine exited the club and tried to assist the bouncers, things “got out of hand” quickly. First, the passenger from the car punched Antoine, who then said, “You done messed up. God bless you.” When the passenger took another swing, Antoine turned around, took a sip of his drink, pulled out a gun, and blew a kiss. The passenger backed up, reached for his waistband, and pointed at Antoine while taunting, “[Y]ou ain't doing nothing, I still kick your, you know.”

Antoine shot the passenger six or seven times, causing him to fall to the ground. Shocked, the driver looked like “he wanted to come help his friend, but he froze.” Antoine then told the driver, “You want some, too?” before walking towards him and firing six or seven more shots, causing the driver to scramble to his car. Antoine later got into his Jaguar and drove away.

Antoine's Story

From Slade's interview, the police learned Antoine's address and arrested him, recovering a gun, a partially loaded magazine, and a black holster from a closet in his apartment.

Antoine provided two post-arrest statements, both of which were admitted at trial: a recorded interview just after his arrest and his grand jury testimony. Consolidating both statements for the purpose of this opinion, Antoine stated that he took his girlfriend to Club Mystique to celebrate her having finished school. In furtherance of the celebration, he purchased a $75 bottle of Ketel One vodka.

After he and his girlfriend began drinking, Antoine saw Hammond and Thompson nearly get into a fight with three Canadian gentlemen after dancing too closely to them on the dance floor. When it appeared that a fight was imminent, Antoine intervened and told Hammond and Thompson to stop and relax. Later in the night, Antoine saw one of the men initiate a second verbal fight,...

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