Johnson v. State, 30926

Decision Date31 May 1961
Docket NumberNo. 30926,30926
Citation130 So.2d 599
PartiesSamuel JOHNSON, Appellant, v. STATE of Florida, Appellee.
CourtFlorida Supreme Court

Francisco A. Rodriguez, Tampa, for appellant.

Richard W. Ervin, Atty. Gen., and George R. Georgieff, Asst. Atty. Gen., for appellee.

THORNAL, Justice.

Appellant Samuel Johnson seeks reversal of a judgment of guilt and a sentence to death entered pursuant to a jury verdict finding him guilty of murder in the first degree without a mercy recommendation.

The sole point assigned for reversal is the allowance of evidence and discussion by the prosecutor regarding appellant's escape from a State prison camp.

In 1958 Johnson escaped from confinement in a State road camp near Cocoa, Florida. He had been convicted and confined for an offense of breaking and entering with intent to commit a misdemeanor. About a year later, while still at large, Johnson burglarized a bar in Palatka. He stole some whisky, money and a .38 caliber pistol. The evening after the burglary appellant was detected by a police officer while patrolling the city in a police car. The officer summonsed help. In the ensuing chase to apprehend Johnson, police officer Faulk was shot by the appellant. The wounds were fatal. Sometime later Johnson was apprehended in a small community a short distance from Palatka. He confessed the crime and was subsequently indicted for the murder. His trial resulted in a jury verdict of guilty of first degree murder. Mercy was not recommended. The mandatory death sentence followed. We are now asked to reverse the judgment of guilt and the ensuing sentence.

The appellant contends that error was committed when the trial judge permitted evidence, including a confession which revealed the earlier conviction of the accused and his escape from the State prison camp in 1958. The State contends that the questioned evidence was relevant to the issues, particularly with reference to the motive for the shooting.

Although the appellant did not object to the questioned evidence when it was offered, he did file a motion for a mistrial because of the allowance of the evidence. He also moved for a new trial on this ground. We allow him the benefit of an objection, which technically was not presented in the orderly course of the trial.

A State prison official testified that Johnson had been incarcerated in a State Road Department camp pursuant to conviction for the crime of breaking and entering with intent to commit a misdemeanor. He testified that while so incarcerated Johnson escaped in 1958 and was still at large illegally when the instant crime was committed in 1959. It is the position of the State that the fact of the escape and appellant's status at the time he shot the officer were relevant to establish a motive for the crime.

We do not overlook appellant's contention that his flight after the crime might be admissible but that evidence of his earlier escape is violative of a contended rule which he claims precludes evidence that points to a collateral crime.

We have disposed of appellant's contention adverse to his position in Williams v. State, Fla.1959, 110 So.2d 654, certiorari denied 361 U.S. 847, 80 S.Ct. 102, 4 L.Ed.2d 86. In the cited case we examined practically all of our prior decisions on this particular subject. We concluded that any fact relevant to prove a fact in issue is admissible unless its admissibility is precluded by some specific rule of exclusion. The test of admissibility is relevancy. The test of inadmissibility is lack of relevancy. Evidence which is relevant will not be excluded merely because it points to the commission of a separate crime unless the sole relevance is merely to...

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19 cases
  • Green v. State, 6828
    • United States
    • Florida District Court of Appeals
    • September 7, 1966
    ...crime or 'similar fact' evidence has been held admissible, such as in Mackiewicz v. State, Fla.1959, 114 So.2d 684; Johnson v. State, Fla.1961, 130 So.2d 599; Reddish v. State, Fla.1964, 167 So.2d 858; San Fratello v. State, Fla.App.1963, 154 So.2d 327; Bell v. State, Fla.App.1965, 178 So.2......
  • State v. Dade County by Bd. of County Com'rs, Dade County Port Authority, 36867
    • United States
    • Florida Supreme Court
    • May 8, 1968
    ...406, 52 S.Ct. 443, 447, 76 L.Ed. 815.16 Seaboard Air Line Railroad Company v. Williams, Fla.1967, 199 So.2d 469, 471; Johnson v. State, Fla.1961, 130 So.2d 599, 601.'* * * now that the Court has decided otherwise judicial self-discipline requires me to follow the political dogma now constit......
  • State v. Hampton
    • United States
    • Oregon Supreme Court
    • July 29, 1993
    ...for attempted murder to show that the defendant had a motive to react with deadly force when followed by F.B.I. agents); Johnson v. State, 130 So.2d 599 (Fla.1961) (evidence that defendant had escaped from prison camp held properly admitted to establish motive in killing police officer abou......
  • Heiney v. State
    • United States
    • Florida Supreme Court
    • February 2, 1984
    ...of prior criminality has been held relevant to the question of motive for the murder of a police officer. See, e.g., Johnson v. State, 130 So.2d 599 (Fla.1961); Mackiewicz v. State, 114 So.2d 684 (Fla.1959), cert. denied, 362 U.S. 965, 80 S.Ct. 883, 4 L.Ed.2d 879 (1960); McVeigh v. State, 7......
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