Sosa v. Maxwell, s. 69--443

Decision Date17 April 1970
Docket NumberNos. 69--443,69--592,s. 69--443
Citation234 So.2d 690
PartiesJose Manuel SOSA, Relator, v. The Honorable Oliver C. MAXWELL, as Circuit Judge of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit of the State of Florida, in and for Hillsborough County, Respondent. Richard Austin GREENE, Relator, v. The Honorable Oliver C. MAXWELL, as Circuit Judge of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit of the State of Florida, in and for Hillsborough County, Respondent.
CourtFlorida District Court of Appeals

Arnold D. Levine of Levine & Freedman, Tampa, for relator Sosa.

A. Dallas Albritton, Jr., Tampa, for relator Greene.

Earl Faircloth, Atty. Gen., Tallahassee, James Robert Yon, Special Asst. Atty. Gen., Tallahassee, and Paul Antinori, Jr., of Antinori, Cazin, Cohen & Thury, Tampa, for respondent.

LILES, Acting Chief Judge.

Relators, Jose Manuel Sosa and Richard Austin Greene, were indicted, tried and found guilty of murder in the first degree without a recommendation of mercy. They appealed their conviction and the Florida Supreme Court reversed with a rather confusing decision. The court, in a per curiam decision, said:

'After a careful review of the voluminous evidence here we are of the view that the evidence was definitely lacking in establishing beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendants committed murder in the first degree, and that the interests of justice require a new trial. The judgments are accordingly reversed and remanded for a new trial.' Sosa v. State, Fla.1968, 215 So.2d 736, 737.

Justices Caldwell, Roberts and Adams dissented. Justice Ervin wrote a specially concurring opinion in which he urged reversal because of legal error. Justices Drew and Thornal joined in the specially concurring opinion.

Be that as it may, when the case came back for a new trial Sosa and Greene filed a Suggestion for a Writ of Prohibition prohibiting the trial judge from again trying Sosa and Greene of murder in the first degree. The trial judge denied their motion to transfer to the Criminal Court of Record, hence the suggestion for writ of prohibition.

The relators urge in this court that where an appellate court has reversed because of the insufficiency of the evidence it is tantamount to a finding of not guilty and to retry Sosa and Greene for murder in the first degree would constitute double jeopardy. We cannot agree with this conclusion under the facts of this case and we deny the writ of prohibition. The relators have not made a clear showing that the reversal by the Florida Supreme Court in this case was based on insufficiency of the evidence to establish an essential element or elements of the crimes charged. Rather, the reversal in this case appears to be based on a finding that the evidence, though technically sufficient, is so tenuous as to prompt an appellate court to exercise its discretion and, in the interest of justice, grant a new trial. 1

Florida has on many occasions held that where the weight of evidence appears to the appellate court to be very weak, although apparently legally sufficient if all permissible inferences are made and certain witnesses believed or disbelieved, a new trial may be granted. In Lowe v. State, 1944, 154 Fla. 730, 737, 19 So.2d 106, 110, the court stated:

'We have held in many cases if, after a full and careful consideration of the entire record, the ends of justice will be best subserved in granting a new trial because of the Inconclusiveness of the testimony offered to establish the essential facts necessary to constitute the crime, then, and under these conditions and circumstances, it becomes the duty of this Court to reverse the cause for a new trial.' (Emphasis supplied.)

In Skiff v. State, 1932, 107 Fla. 90, 91, 144 So. 323, the court put it thusly:

'The evidence in the instant case * * * is far from convincing. * * *

'We are convinced that justice demands a new trial.'

The Florida Supreme Court spoke quite clearly in Fuller v. State, 1926, 92 Fla. 873, 110 So. 528:

'This court is very reluctant to interfere with the verdict of a jury on the facts. After a most careful consideration, however, of the evidence disclosed by this record, the court is of the opinion that While there is some evidence to identify the defendant as the guilty party, the evidence upon the essential issue of identity, taken as a whole, and considered in the light of the countervailing testimony on that question, is such that it is considered just and right that another jury should pass upon the issues made.

'The judgment is therefore reversed and a new trial granted.' (Emphasis supplied.)

See also Nims v. State, 1915, 70 Fla. 530, 70 So. 565.

It therefore appears that the cases are legion to support the decision of the court in the Sosa-Greene case that where the weight of the evidence is of very dubious probative value a new trial may be granted. We do not express an opinion as to the propriety of a new trial after a reversal for lack of sufficient evidence to establish, as a matter of law, the essential elements of the crime charged. Where this situation obtains, the trial judge should have directed a verdict of acquittal. In such instances several courts have perceived an application of the double jeopardy provision of the United States Constitution that would bar retrial after appellate reversal. 2 However, in the cases discussed above reversing on the weight of the evidence, it appears there was technically sufficient evidence to withstand a motion for a directed verdict of acquittal and thus double jeopardy is not in issue.

The relators primarily rely on Green v. United States, 1957, 355 U.S. 184, 78 S.Ct. 221, 2 L.Ed.2d 199, 61 A.L.R.2d 1119. We have no quarrel with the holding in the Green case but do not believe that the case is applicable here. In the Green case the petitioner, Everett D. Green, was indicted and charged with two counts, arseon and and charged with two counts, arson and a verdict finding defendant guilty of...

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15 cases
  • Sumpter v. DeGroote
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Seventh Circuit
    • 1 Abril 1977
    ...A.2d 789, 791-92 (Del.1967); Smith v. State, 239 So.2d 284, 288-89 (Fla.App.1970), rev'd, Fla., 249 So.2d 16 (1971); Sosa v. Maxwell, 234 So.2d 690, 692 (Fla.App.1970).Most federal courts have not yet gone so far as to repudiate Bryan. They have, however, strictly limited application of the......
  • Tibbs v. State
    • United States
    • Florida Supreme Court
    • 9 Abril 1981 reconciled, or that none explicitly relied on evidentiary weight as the sole basis for reversal. Two cases in 1970, Sosa v. Maxwell, 234 So.2d 690 (Fla. 2d DCA 1970), and Smith v. State, 239 So.2d 284 (Fla. 2d DCA 1970), recognized that evidentiary weight could serve as a basis for appel......
  • Greene v. Massey
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Fifth Circuit
    • 26 Enero 1977
    ...§ 2106 powers, it likewise does not prevent similar action by a state court exercising analogous powers. 17 AFFIRMED. 1 Sosa v. Maxwell, 2 DCA Fla., 1970, 234 So.2d 690.2 The Fourth District Court of Appeal determined that the ruling on the Second District Court of Appeal on the double jeop......
  • Smith v. State
    • United States
    • Florida District Court of Appeals
    • 12 Agosto 1970
    ...have been awarded have been so ambiguous that we cannot determine in which category they fall. 16 Judge Liles' opinion in Sosa v. Maxwell, Fla.App.1970, 234 So.2d 690, illuminates the distinction. Yet the digests include key numbers for 'weight and sufficiency of evidence' which include cas......
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