Garcia v. State, 87-2543

CourtCourt of Appeal of Florida (US)
Citation13 Fla. L. Weekly 2350,535 So.2d 290
Docket NumberNo. 87-2543,87-2543
Parties13 Fla. L. Weekly 2350, 14 Fla. L. Weekly 106 Rigoberto GARCIA, Appellant, v. The STATE of Florida, Appellee.
Decision Date18 October 1988

Page 290

535 So.2d 290
13 Fla. L. Weekly 2350, 14 Fla. L. Weekly 106
Rigoberto GARCIA, Appellant,
The STATE of Florida, Appellee.
No. 87-2543.
District Court of Appeal of Florida,
Third District.
Oct. 18, 1988.

As Amended on Denial of Rehearing Dec. 27, 1988.

Breslin & Raben and Peter Raben, Coconut Grove, for appellant.

Robert A. Butterworth, Atty. Gen., and Yvette Rhodes Prescott, Asst. Atty. Gen., for appellee.



Rigoberto Garcia, convicted by a jury of second-degree murder, 1 contends on appeal that the trial court committed reversible error when, acceding to the deliberating jury's request to be reinstructed on the definitions of second-degree murder and manslaughter, it refused the defendant's request that the manslaughter instruction include the definitions of justifiable or excusable homicide. Garcia says that any reinstruction should have contained the definition of justifiable homicide because this was the theory of his defense. Additionally, he argues that even absent such a defense, the reinstruction on manslaughter

Page 291

was incomplete, inadequate, and misleading when it failed to redefine justifiable and excusable homicide. 2

We disagree with Garcia that the jury's request to reinstruct on the definitions of second-degree murder and manslaughter required the court to reinstruct on Garcia's self-defense theory. And, although we agree with Garcia that the manslaughter reinstruction was incomplete because it did not redefine justifiable or excusable homicide, the jury's verdict of second-degree murder made this error entirely harmless. We thus affirm.

Predictably, the State's and defendant's evidence concerning the killing were at odds. The State's version was that the defendant silenced the verbally but not physically aggressive victim by shooting him; the defendant's version was that two weeks before the shooting, the victim had beaten him and threatened to kill him, and that immediately before the shooting the victim threw a pool ball at him and kept coming toward him with what appeared to be a weapon despite the defendant's warning shot. In short, if believed, the defendant's testimony made out a case of self-defense, or, in legal terms, justifiable homicide. 3 That being so, we reject the State's argument that the evidence was insufficient as a matter of law to establish justifiable homicide, and, therefore, no reinstruction (and presumably no instruction in the first instance) was required. 4 As is well established, it is "incumbent upon the court to charge the jury on every defense which is recognized by the law and sustained by a version of the testimony which the jury has a right to accept." Rodriguez v. State, 396 So.2d 798, 799 (Fla. 3d DCA 1981). See Palmes v. State, 397 So.2d 648 (Fla.1981); Johnson v. State, 484 So.2d 1347 (Fla. 4th DCA 1986); Canty v. State, 471 So.2d 676 (Fla. 1st DCA 1985); Pope v. State, 458 So.2d 327 (Fla. 1st DCA 1984).

But merely because the court was required to instruct the jury on Garcia's factually supported claim of self-defense does not mean that it was required to re-instruct the jury on the defendant's claimed defense when the jury requested a reinstruction on the elements of the offense. Here, the jury did not request reinstruction on self-defense, and the trial court was not required to reinstruct on a separate matter not requested by the jury. See Singleton v. State, 512 So.2d 1159, 1160 (Fla. 3d DCA 1987) ("[W]e find no abuse of discretion in the trial court's directly responding to the jury's simple request for the elements of the charged crime of burglary by stating those elements, along with the presumption of innocence and the state's burden of proof, without also re-reading a previously given instruction concerning the defense of good faith mistake."); Gonzalez v. State, 502 So.2d 66, 67 (Fla. 3d DCA 1987) ("The trial court also properly limited its response to the jury's request by denying Gonzalez' request to re-instruct the jury on self-defense, and this was not misleading."); Reifsnyder v. State, 428 So.2d 738 (Fla. 2d DCA 1983) (no error in not reinstructing on self-defense when jury asks only for definitions of specific charges). But see Carranza v. State, 511 So.2d 410 (Fla. 4th DCA 1987). As the supreme court declared in Henry v. State, 359 So.2d 864, 867 (Fla.1978), to require all instructions to be given when only some are requested "might ... create confusion in the minds of the jurors[,] ... might give the appearance of placing the trial judge in the role of an interested advocate rather than an impartial arbiter," would be "exhausting and time consuming," and the "result might be a jury which is deterred from requesting

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and a court which is restrained from giving, supplemental instructions to help clarify a particular issue."

Garcia is quite correct in his second argument that the definition of manslaughter, to be complete, requires a definition of justifiable and excusable homicide; unlike first-degree and second-degree murder, manslaughter is a residual offense which is defined by...

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7 cases
  • Mohammed v. State, Case No. 5D19-1341
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • December 11, 2020
    ...of a defense because it is wholly inconsistent with a jury's finding that a defendant acted with a "depraved mind." See Garcia v. State , 535 So. 2d 290, 292 (Fla. 3d DCA 1988), quashed by 552 So. 2d 202 (Fla. 1989). 4 309 So.3d 275 Mohammed nevertheless insists that the trial court fundame......
  • Rojas v. State, 73622
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • November 22, 1989
    ...and excusable homicide as part of the instruction on manslaughter. However, the court followed the rationale of Garcia v. State, 535 So.2d 290 (Fla. 3d DCA 1988), in which the Third District Court of Appeal had held under similar circumstances that the trial judge's failure to give the comp......
  • Smith v. State, 86-3159
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • February 24, 1989
    ...and (though not objected to) not fundamental error." Rojas v. State, 535 So.2d 674 (Fla. 5th DCA 1988). Rojas followed Garcia v. State, 535 So.2d 290 (Fla. 3d DCA 1988; on rehearing Dec. 27, 1988) which also involved a second-degree murder conviction. In Garcia the Third District Court of A......
  • Rojas v. State, 87-1571
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • December 22, 1988
    ...v. State, 500 So.2d 1367 (Fla. 1st DCA 1987). However, we are persuaded by the rationale employed by our sister court in Garcia v. State, 535 So.2d 290 (Fla. 3d DCA 1988), that in this case, the trial judge's failure to give the complete manslaughter instruction was harmless error, and (tho......
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