Files v. State, No. 78552

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Florida
Writing for the CourtOVERTON; Ervin; BARKETT
Citation613 So.2d 1301
Parties17 Fla. L. Week. S742, 18 Fla. L. Week. S186 Wayne FILES, Petitioner, v. STATE of Florida, Respondent.
Decision Date10 December 1992
Docket NumberNo. 78552

Page 1301

613 So.2d 1301
17 Fla. L. Week. S742, 18 Fla. L. Week. S186
Wayne FILES, Petitioner,
v.
STATE of Florida, Respondent.
No. 78552.
Supreme Court of Florida.
Dec. 10, 1992.
Rehearing Denied March 18, 1993.

Nancy A. Daniels, Public Defender, and Lawrence M. Korn, Asst. Public Defender, Tallahassee, for petitioner.

Robert A. Butterworth, Atty. Gen., James W. Rogers, Bureau Chief, Asst. Atty. Gen. and Bradley R. Bischoff, Asst. Atty. Gen., Tallahassee, for respondent.

OVERTON, Justice.

We have for review Files v. State, 586 So.2d 352 (Fla. 1st DCA 1991), in which the First District Court of Appeal affirmed Files' conviction for three counts of dealing in stolen property. The issue in this case concerns the standard of review that should be applied by an appellate court when addressing a trial court's finding that the reasons given for exercising a peremptory challenge are race-neutral and nonpretextual. Here, the district court affirmed the trial court and held that the proper standard for reviewing the trial court's decision concerning peremptory challenges is the abuse of discretion standard established in Canakaris v. Canakaris, 382 So.2d 1197 (Fla.1980). The district court, after applying the abuse of discretion standard, certified the following question as being of great public importance:

WHAT IS THE STANDARD OF APPELLATE REVIEW OF A TRIAL COURT'S FINDING THAT THE STATE'S USE OF PEREMPTORY CHALLENGES AGAINST PROSPECTIVE BLACK JURORS WAS REASONABLE, RACE-NEUTRAL AND NON-PRETEXTUAL?

Files, 586 So.2d at 357. 1 We answer the question by reaffirming our holding in previous cases wherein we stated that the abuse of discretion standard is the proper standard of review. However, in answering the certified question and approving the decision of the district court in this case, we emphasize that this standard does not apply in instances where a strict rule of law has developed and is applicable under the facts of a particular case.

Page 1302

The record reflects that, during the course of voir dire examination, the prosecutor exercised peremptory challenges against two black jurors. Defense counsel objected to the use of the peremptory challenges toward these black jurors, suggesting that they were racially motivated. The trial judge determined that the Neil 2 threshold had been met and proceeded to ask the State for its reasons for striking the two prospective jurors. The prosecutor responded that the first prospective juror's "rap sheet" indicated a prior DUI conviction and that the juror had not volunteered this information when asked about prior convictions. With regard to the second prospective juror, the prosecutor explained that his reasons for striking her were that she was divorced, had five children, and was unemployed. Furthermore, the prosecutor stated that he preferred jurors who worked or had other visible means of support. Defense counsel moved to strike the jury panel, asserting that the stated reasons were "superfluous." The trial judge denied the motion. The jury ultimately chosen was composed of four whites and two blacks with one black alternate. Files was found guilty as charged.

On appeal, the district court noted that this Court had adopted the abuse of discretion standard when reviewing a trial court's consideration of the State's reasons given as a result of a Neil inquiry. In applying this standard, the district court concluded that "reasonable persons could arguably agree with the trial court's action," and, consequently, held that there was no abuse of discretion exercised by the trial judge. Files, 586 So.2d at 357. In so ruling, the district court noted as to the first juror that

the prosecutor asked not only whether any of the jurors had had dealings with the state attorney's office or contacts with law enforcement officials, but also whether anyone present or any of their relatives had ever been arrested for any type of crime. Although several jurors admitted having previous convictions or experiences with law enforcement officers, this prospective juror said nothing. Although the prosecutor did not produce the information sheet indicating that the juror had actually been convicted of DUI, his representation of a prior felony conviction was a valid reason for exercising a peremptory challenge. Roundtree v. State, 546 So.2d 1042 (Fla.1989); Tillman v. State, 522 So.2d 14 (Fla.1988); Stephens v. State, 559 So.2d 687 (Fla. 1st DCA 1990), approved on other grounds, 572 So.2d 1387 (Fla.1991); Knight [v. State, 559 So.2d 327] (Fla. 1st DCA), review dismissed, 574 So.2d 141 (Fla.1990).

Files, 586 So.2d at 356 (footnote omitted).

As to the second prospective juror, Files had not only challenged the reasons offered for that juror's excusal, but also claimed that the State did not strike "similarly situated" white jurors who were divorced and/or unemployed. In rejecting this argument, the district court stated

it is apparent from the record that while two other jurors were divorced and one other juror was unemployed, none of the other jurors selected were both unemployed and divorced with five children. Had the prosecutor offered only unemployment or divorce as an explanation for the exercise of this peremptory challenge, we may have been required to find that the trial judge abused his discretion by accepting the reason as nondiscriminatory. But, because the combination of unemployment[ ] and divorce may arguably indicate some prospect of a level of detachment from the proceedings not based on race, we cannot say that reasonable persons would not differ as to the propriety of this reason for excusing the juror.

Id. at 356-57 (citation omitted).

Judge Ervin dissented, finding that the reasons given for excusing the second juror were improper. He based his view on the following statements from our decision

Page 1303

in State v. Slappy, 522 So.2d 18, 22 (Fla.), cert. denied, 487 U.S. 1219, 108 S.Ct. 2873, 101 L.Ed.2d 909 (1988):

We agree that the presence of one or more of these factors will tend to show that the state's reasons are not actually supported by the record or are an impermissible pretext: (1) alleged group bias not shown to be shared by the juror in question, (2) failure to examine the juror or perfunctory examination, assuming neither the trial court nor opposing counsel had questioned the juror, (3) singling the juror out for special questioning designed to evoke a certain response,...

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42 practice notes
  • Dorsey v. State, No. SC02-531.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • December 18, 2003
    ...can consider the demeanor of those involved, and can get a feel for what is going on in the jury selection process." Files v. State, 613 So.2d 1301, 1305 (Fla.1992). However, as recently stated by the United States Supreme Court in the highly deferential context of federal habeas review of ......
  • Ratliff v. State, No. 94-2644
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • January 23, 1996
    ...can consider the demeanor of those involved, and can get a feel for what is going on in the jury selection process." Files v. State, 613 So.2d 1301, 1305 (Fla.1992). Whether the prosecutor is discriminating on the basis of race is a question of fact, one which the trial court has primary re......
  • Nelson v. Sec'y, Case No. 8:14-cv-1257-T-36JSS
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Florida
    • September 28, 2017
    ...strike is reviewed for an abuse of discretion." Truehill v. State, 211 So.3d 930, 942 (Fla. 2017)Page 31 (citing Files v. State, 613 So.2d 1301, 1304 (Fla. 1992)). "In deciding whether the proffered race-neutral reason for the peremptory strike is a pretext, the Court should focus on the ge......
  • Truehill v. State, No. SC14–1514
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • February 23, 2017
    ...the State's challenge. The trial court's decision to uphold a peremptory strike is reviewed for an abuse of discretion. Files v. State , 613 So.2d 1301, 1304 (Fla. 1992). Trial courts have broad discretion in determining the propriety of the exercise of peremptory challenges. Fotopoulos v. ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
42 cases
  • Dorsey v. State, No. SC02-531.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • December 18, 2003
    ...can consider the demeanor of those involved, and can get a feel for what is going on in the jury selection process." Files v. State, 613 So.2d 1301, 1305 (Fla.1992). However, as recently stated by the United States Supreme Court in the highly deferential context of federal habeas review of ......
  • Ratliff v. State, No. 94-2644
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • January 23, 1996
    ...can consider the demeanor of those involved, and can get a feel for what is going on in the jury selection process." Files v. State, 613 So.2d 1301, 1305 (Fla.1992). Whether the prosecutor is discriminating on the basis of race is a question of fact, one which the trial court has primary re......
  • Nelson v. Sec'y, Case No. 8:14-cv-1257-T-36JSS
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Florida
    • September 28, 2017
    ...strike is reviewed for an abuse of discretion." Truehill v. State, 211 So.3d 930, 942 (Fla. 2017)Page 31 (citing Files v. State, 613 So.2d 1301, 1304 (Fla. 1992)). "In deciding whether the proffered race-neutral reason for the peremptory strike is a pretext, the Court should focus on the ge......
  • Truehill v. State, No. SC14–1514
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • February 23, 2017
    ...the State's challenge. The trial court's decision to uphold a peremptory strike is reviewed for an abuse of discretion. Files v. State , 613 So.2d 1301, 1304 (Fla. 1992). Trial courts have broad discretion in determining the propriety of the exercise of peremptory challenges. Fotopoulos v. ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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