State v. Rawls, No. 82793

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Florida
Writing for the CourtGRIMES; OVERTON, SHAW, KOGAN and HARDING, JJ., and McDONALD
Citation649 So.2d 1350
Parties19 Fla. L. Weekly S549, 20 Fla. L. Weekly S69 STATE of Florida, Petitioner, v. Augustus J. RAWLS, Respondent.
Decision Date27 October 1994
Docket NumberNo. 82793

Page 1350

649 So.2d 1350
19 Fla. L. Weekly S549, 20 Fla. L. Weekly S69
STATE of Florida, Petitioner,
v.
Augustus J. RAWLS, Respondent.
No. 82793.
Supreme Court of Florida.
Oct. 27, 1994.
Rehearing Denied Feb. 9, 1995.

Robert A. Butterworth, Atty. Gen., James W. Rogers, Bureau Chief, Crim. Appeals, and Carolyn J. Mosley, Asst. Atty. Gen., Tallahassee, for petitioner.

Nancy A. Daniels, Public Defender and Kathleen Stover, Asst. Public Defender, Tallahassee, for respondent.

GRIMES, Chief Justice.

We review Rawls v. State, 624 So.2d 757 (Fla. 1st DCA 1993), because of its conflict with Bierer v. State, 582 So.2d 1230 (Fla. 3rd DCA), review denied, 591 So.2d 180 (Fla.1991). We have jurisdiction under article V, section 3(b)(3) of the Florida Constitution.

Page 1351

Rawls was charged with committing capital sexual battery on M.R., a male child. Prior to trial, the State filed Williams rule 1 notices of its intent to introduce evidence of previous acts of sexual battery committed by Rawls on three other young males. The defense objected, and a hearing was held. The judge decided to allow the introduction of the evidence, finding it was admissible to corroborate the testimony of M.R. under Heuring v. State, 513 So.2d 122 (Fla.1987), and the case proceeded to trial.

At trial, M.R.'s mother testified that she met Rawls through a neighbor, and they became friendly. Rawls told her that he was having problems where he lived and that he desired to live with a family with children. Subsequently, Rawls moved in with M.R.'s family, after agreeing to pay rent and to furnish his own food. Rawls remained in the home for ten days. During that time, he slept in M.R.'s room while M.R. slept on the couch in the living room. M.R. testified that when no one but Rawls and M.R. were present, Rawls touched M.R.'s penis and placed it in his mouth. M.R. did not tell anyone because he was afraid.

The State then presented the Williams rule evidence, which was summarized by the district court as follows:

The state's collateral-crime evidence consisted of the testimony of 16-year-old J.F., who stated that [Rawls] had lived with his family. [Rawls] was good to his family while he lived with them and bought J.F. gifts, gave him money, and took him fishing. J.F. called him "Uncle Gus." J.F. testified that [Rawls] put his mouth on his penis. He was approximately eight or nine when this first occurred. No one else was present. [Rawls] told J.F. not to tell anyone what he did to him.

J.K.F., J.F.'s brother who was 20 years old at the time of the trial, testified that [Rawls] was his mother's friend and had moved in with the family. J.K.F. was approximately eight or nine when [Rawls] first came to live with them, and he lived with them for several years. [Rawls] was good to the family and to him. He bought J.K.F. clothes and toys, paid the bills, and paid rent to his mother. J.K.F. testified that [Rawls] put his mouth on his penis when no one was around and that he told him not to tell anyone. This usually occurred while J.K.F. was in his bedroom between 2:30 and 3:00 a.m.

Finally, T.S., then [twelve and one-half] years old, testified that he met [Rawls] when he was approximately nine years old. [Rawls] moved in with his family and helped them to pay bills and groceries. [Rawls] was good to him--he bought him clothes and drinks. T.S. testified that [Rawls] first put his mouth on the boy's penis while the two were in [Rawls'] trailer, and that similar acts occurred after [Rawls] moved in with T.S.'s family. No one was present during these occurrences, and [Rawls] told T.S. not to tell anyone. [Rawls] lived with his family approximately one to one and a-half years.

Rawls, 624 So.2d at 759.

At the close of all of the evidence, the trial court gave the following Williams rule instruction which was modified to include the emphasized language:

The evidence which has been admitted to show similar crimes, wrongs, or acts allegedly committed by the defendant will be considered by you only as that evidence relates to proof of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, or the absence of mistake or accident on the part of the defendant or to corroborate the testimony of the alleged victim in this case. However, the defendant is not on trial for a crime that is not included in the information.

(Emphasis added.) Rawls was convicted.

On direct appeal, Rawls argued that the trial court erred by: (1) admitting the Williams rule testimony and (2) modifying the jury instruction to include corroboration of the victim's testimony as a proper use of collateral-crime evidence. Regarding the first issue, the district court found that the

Page 1352

testimony of J.F., J.K.F., and T.S. was admissible. However, the court reversed and remanded on the second issue. The court found that there was no evidence presented that the charged offense arose in a familial or custodial setting. Therefore, the court held that instruction was an erroneous statement of the law because section 90.404(2)(a), Florida Statutes (1991), does not list victim corroboration as a proper purpose for similar-fact evidence, and Heuring only authorizes use for corroboration in a familial or custodial situation. The court also held that the instruction was not harmless error.

The Williams rule, codified at section 90.404(2)(a), Florida Statutes (1991), provides:

Similar fact evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts is admissible when relevant to prove a material fact in issue, such as proof of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake or accident, but is inadmissible when the evidence is relevant solely to prove bad character or propensity.

In Heuring, this Court expanded the Williams rule in cases involving sexual battery committed within a familial context. The Court recognized that such cases present special problems. Heuring, 513 So.2d at 124. Because the victim knows the perpetrator, the enumerated purposes of the Williams rule, such as identity, are not at issue. Also, the victim is typically the sole eyewitness and corroborative evidence is scant. The victim's credibility is the focal issue. Id. Accordingly, we held that in the narrow class of cases involving sexual battery within a familial context similar fact evidence is admissible to corroborate the testimony of the victim. Id. at 124-25.

In the instant case, the district court held that Rawls' conduct did not occur within a familial context and, therefore, the similar fact evidence could not be used to corroborate the M.R.'s testimony. The State argues that a familial relationship did, in fact, exist.

The existence of a familial relationship depends on the particular facts of a case. The relationship in Heuring was clearly familial. The defendant was charged with the sexual battery of his stepdaughter, and the similar fact evidence was that the...

To continue reading

Request your trial
40 practice notes
  • Griffin v. Sec'y, Case No. 8:13-cv-2025-T-36TBM
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Florida
    • September 21, 2016
    ...a special jury instruction on the meaning of familial authority. This instruction was derived from Florida decisions:In State v. Rawls, 649 So.2d 1350, 1353 (Fla. 1994), the supreme court defined the concept of "familial relationship" in the context of the sexual battery of children. Althou......
  • Colville v. Dixon, 3:21cv850/LAC/EMT
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Northern District of Florida
    • March 7, 2022
    ...understood definition as one having custody and control of another.” Id. at 1358. The Florida Supreme Court's decision in State v. Rawls, 649 So.2d 1350 (Fla. 1994), discusses the familial authority setting. Although Rawls specifically dealt with a “Williams rule”[14] issue (i.e., the admis......
  • McLean v. State, No. 2D02-1322.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • September 5, 2003
    ...by a long, and arguably varied, line of cases stemming from the supreme court's decisions in Saffor, 660 So.2d 668; State v. Rawls, 649 So.2d 1350 (Fla.1994); Heuring, 513 So.2d 122; and Williams, 110 So.2d 654. In order for such prior misconduct to be admissible, the evidence needed to mee......
  • Farrill v. State, No. 2D98-2024.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • April 14, 2000
    ...of trust with the defendant, similar to the bond that develops between a child and her grandfather, uncle, or guardian." State v. Rawls, 649 So.2d 1350, 1353 The relationship between defendant and victim has become preeminently significant in the recent analyses of the admissibility of Will......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
40 cases
  • Griffin v. Sec'y, Case No. 8:13-cv-2025-T-36TBM
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Florida
    • September 21, 2016
    ...a special jury instruction on the meaning of familial authority. This instruction was derived from Florida decisions:In State v. Rawls, 649 So.2d 1350, 1353 (Fla. 1994), the supreme court defined the concept of "familial relationship" in the context of the sexual battery of children. Althou......
  • Colville v. Dixon, 3:21cv850/LAC/EMT
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Northern District of Florida
    • March 7, 2022
    ...understood definition as one having custody and control of another.” Id. at 1358. The Florida Supreme Court's decision in State v. Rawls, 649 So.2d 1350 (Fla. 1994), discusses the familial authority setting. Although Rawls specifically dealt with a “Williams rule”[14] issue (i.e., the admis......
  • McLean v. State, No. 2D02-1322.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • September 5, 2003
    ...by a long, and arguably varied, line of cases stemming from the supreme court's decisions in Saffor, 660 So.2d 668; State v. Rawls, 649 So.2d 1350 (Fla.1994); Heuring, 513 So.2d 122; and Williams, 110 So.2d 654. In order for such prior misconduct to be admissible, the evidence needed to mee......
  • Farrill v. State, No. 2D98-2024.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • April 14, 2000
    ...of trust with the defendant, similar to the bond that develops between a child and her grandfather, uncle, or guardian." State v. Rawls, 649 So.2d 1350, 1353 The relationship between defendant and victim has become preeminently significant in the recent analyses of the admissibility of Will......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT