Williams v. State, 1136

Decision Date16 June 1967
Docket NumberNo. 1136,1136
Citation200 So.2d 636
PartiesJessie M. WILLIAMS, Appellant, v. STATE of Florida, Appellee.
CourtFlorida District Court of Appeals

Steadman S. Stahl, Jr., of Varon, Stahl & Perlin, Hollywood, for appellant.

Earl Faircloth, Atty. Gen., Tallahassee, and Fred T. Gallagher, Asst. Atty. Gen., Vero Beach, for appellee.

BARNS, PAUL D., Associate Judge.

On January 10, 1966, an information was filed against the Appellant-Williams and Joseph R. Dumond, charging both with the crime of robbery on January 7, 1966. At trial to a jury on pleas of not guilty, Dumond was acquitted and Appellant-Defendant-Williams was found guilty and sentenced. Williams appealed, and we affirm.

As stated by the appellant's attorney, the evidentiary facts show: That a masked gunman went to the Coach House Harbor Restaurant located in Pompano Beach, Florida, and there held at gunpoint, Benjamin Cooper, who was the manager of the establishment, and Eva Reitz, a cashier. Taken from the cash register and given to the masked gunman was a large sum of money. The masked gunman was identified as the co-defendant, Joseph R. Dumond. A busboy, an employee of the Coach House Harbor, happened to see what was occurring and exited the building on the east side, came into the parking lot and there saw a white Chevrolet with a man behind the wheel. While in the parking lot, the employee of the Coach House Harbor saw the masked gunman run across the restaurant and head toward this four-door white Chevrolet, which was occupied by a single male behind the wheel. He, the employee, immediately went back into the Coach House Harbor, went through the building and upon instructions from Mr. Cooper, exited from the building at the west end, ran out into the road in time to see the Chevrolet making a turn to the south on Federal Highway. The Pompano Beach Police Department was immediately notified.

Approximately five minutes to ten minutes after the robbery of the Coach house Harbor, a member of the Pompano Beach Police Department saw a four-door white Chevrolet proceeding in a westerly direction on Atlantic Boulevard which vehicle met the description of the one that was supposed to have been seen leaving the Coach House Harbor with two occupants. The police unit, with one officer driving and one officer a passenger, made a u-turn on Atlantic Boulevard and gave pursuit of the automobile which accelerated at a fast rate of speed, went west on Atlantic Boulevard to Sixth avenue, turned south and ran into a dead-end. At the dead-end, the person in the passenger's seat of the automobile alighted from the automobile, ran into the bushes and was not captured. The appellant was apprehended behind the wheel of the automobile. The officers also testified as they turned from Atlantic Boulevard into Sixth Avenue that they asw thrown from the automobile some items which were later recovered by members of the Pompano Beach Police Department and were described as having come from the robbery at the Coach House Harbor Restaurant.

On behalf of the co-defendant, Joseph R. Dumond, there were numerous witnesses offered as an alibi placing Mr. Dumond at some place other than in the Pompano Beach area at the time it is alleged that Mr. Dumond is supposed to have committed this robbery with Mr. Williams. On each and every occasion that a witness for Mr. Dumond took the stand, counsel for the Appellant-Williams made a statement that that person was not being called as a witness for Mr. Williams, which the court recognized.

It is to be noted here that none of the witnesses called to testify in behalf of the co-defendant, Dumond, in any way gave any help or aid to the Appellant-Williams in the defense of his case.

Jessie Williams, the appellant herein, did not take the stand to testify in his own defense and offered no testimony of any kind to the court and the jury.

Appellant's brief is addressed to the following assignment of error predicated on the quoted matter under the circumstances as stated, viz.:

'6. The court committed error in denying defense counsel's Motion for Mistrial:

'* * *

'(b) During closing argument when Mr. Balsiger, the Prosecutor, made reference on three separate occasions of Defendant, WILLIAMS' failure to testify and take the stand in his own behalf.'

At the conclusion of the entire case and at the time the respective attorneys made their closing arguments, Counsel for the appellant waived his opening argument. By doing this, the order then of argument was: Mr. Balsiger, the prosecutor, first; Mr. Seidel, the Defendant-Dumond's lawyer, would be next. Mr. Balsiger would then have an opportunity of answering Mr. Seidel; and then counsel for the appellant herein would have final argument.

During the closing arguments for the state, Mr. Balsiger, the prosecutor, made the following argument to the jury:

'MR. BALSIGER: * * * Gentlemen, let me briefly just explain the order which the counsel will talk with you. When a defendant puts on no evidence or no testimony other than perhaps his own, he is entitled to the opening and closing arguments. If the defendant does in fact put on evidence or testimony other than himself, he is entitled, the State is entitled to opening and closing.

'Here we have the combination of both situations and for this reason I will have the opening statement so far as Joe Dumond is concerned and the closing statement as far as Joe Dumond is concerned, The defense counsel for Jessie Williams having put on no testimony or evidence is entitled to opening statement for Jessie Williams and of course closing statement for Jessie Williams and I will be sandwiched in between.' (R 271, 272--Emphasis added.)

Again, the prosecutor made the following comment:

'MR. BALSIGER: First of all, it has never been questioned that this robbery did occur on January 7th. Therefore, this stand uncontested, this stands as proved. * * *' (R 274)

'* * * I think it will be a question of fact, was Cooper robbed, and was the money taken and you heard the testimony to the fact that somewhere in excess of $1600 was taken. This was never controverted in any way.' (R 275)

And lastly:

'MR. BALSIGER: * * * We saw how the defendant Jrssie Williams as a practical matter, was flatly caught redhanded. He did not get away. He was the unlucky one in this group.

'Now I am not sure just how they are going to supply the fact that he was driving the car, that all this stuff came out of these innocent men. * * *' (R 320)

Appellant argues that the argument and comments by counsel for the state is proscribed by Chapter 918.09, Florida Statutes, F.S.A., which provided, in part, as follows:

'* * * (B)ut no accused person shall be compelled to give testimony against himself, nor shall any prosecuting attorney be permitted before the jury or court to comment on the failure of the accused to testify in his own behalf * * *.'

and cites Flaherty v. State, fla.App.1966, 183 So.2d 607, in support of error. As in the case at bar, there was no testimony in behalf of the defendant in the Flaherty case, and the court in reversing held:

'A comment made by a prosecuting attorney, directly or indirectly, which is subject to interpretation by a jury as a comment upon failure of a defendant to testify has been strictly regarded as an impingement on the substantial right of the defendant secured by section 918.09, Florida Statutes, F.S.A. This is so, regardless of the character of the comment, the motive or intent of the prosecutor or whether or not it was innocently or inadvertently spoken, and...

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1 cases
  • Williams v. State.
    • United States
    • Florida Supreme Court
    • November 1, 1967
    ...453 207 So.2d 453 Jesse M. WILLIAMS v. STATE. No. 36669. Supreme Court of Florida. Nov. 1967. Certiorari denied without opinion. 200 So.2d 636. ...

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