Wright v. State

Decision Date01 April 2020
Docket NumberNo. 3D18-1633,3D18-1633
Citation300 So.3d 1243
Parties Sedrick WRIGHT, Appellant, v. The STATE of Florida, Appellee.
CourtFlorida District Court of Appeals

Carlos J. Martinez, Public Defender, and Jeffrey Paul DeSousa, and James Odell, Assistant Public Defenders, for appellant.

Ashley Moody, Attorney General, and Asad Ali, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

Before LOGUE, HENDON, and GORDO, JJ.

HENDON, J.

Sedrick Wright appeals from his conviction and sentencing as a Violent Career Criminal pursuant to section 775.084(1)(d), Florida Statutes (2016). We affirm.

Wright was initially stopped by plainclothes police officers when they smelled marijuana coming from his vehicle as he passed them on the road. The officers pulled in behind him and blocked his car; Wright got out of the car and ran. When Wright failed to stop when ordered to, the officers tasered him. The arresting officers handcuffed him, but did not pat Wright down as incident to arrest, as they were attempting to remove the taser probes. Later, as other officers were moving him, an officer noticed a long spring fall out of Wright's pants. On further investigation, a gun fell out of Wright's pants, spilling bullet cartridges.

Wright was initially charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession and cocaine possession, both charges were later nolle prossed. Wright went to trial on the charge of possession of a gun by a convicted felon. A nearby witness recorded parts of the arrest on a cellphone camera. The video was introduced at the trial; the audio part of the video was not admitted because on the audio portion, an officer can be overheard saying "You ran because you got cocaine, you don't want to go to jail, you're probably on probation." The audio was deemed prejudicial and unrelated to the charge of gun possession. During their deliberations, the jury requested to view the video once again. The parties agreed that the jury could use the courtroom to view the video, without audio, as part of their deliberations. The parties agreed that they and trial court judge would not be present during the viewing and deliberations. The jury subsequently convicted Wright of possession of a weapon by a career criminal.

At the time of pronouncing the sentence, the trial court asked both the defense and prosecution what the difference was between finding that Wright was "a danger to the public," and a finding that Violent Career Criminal sentencing was "not necessary for the protection of the public." Finding no difference, and based on Wright's prior record, the trial court determined it could not find that Wright was not a "danger to the community." The court sentenced Wright to life in prison as a Violent Career Criminal pursuant to section 775.084(1)(d), providing that this sentence was "necessary for the protection of the public."

Wright argues on appeal that he is entitled to a new trial because the trial court judge was absent from the courtroom during the jury's viewing of critical video evidence. The parties agreed that the jury could re-watch the cellphone video, but without the prejudicial audio portion. Both parties agreed that the jurors could watch and deliberate in the courtroom without the state or defense present. The trial court judge decided, without an objection by either party, that he would leave the courtroom so that the jurors could deliberate freely and privately. The record indicates that the sound on the video was muted. The defendant now argues that there is no way to determine if the unsupervised jurors un-muted the audio to hear inadmissible and prejudicial evidence, and thus a new trial is required.

The trial court was not required to be present when the jury viewed the muted cellphone video during jury deliberations. The jurors were the only persons in the courtroom during the playback of the video. See Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.400(a)(3). It is entirely speculative whether the jury went against the trial court's explicit explanation that the video sound was not to be heard by the jury, and there is no evidence in the record that the jury heard any audio. The video was set up to play on a loop, and there is suggestion in the record that the remote controls to the video player were not available to the jury and the transcript indicates that the jury did not have the ability to un-mute the video.

Evidence introduced during the course of the trial may be viewed by the jury in the jury room during their deliberations. Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.400(a)(3) ;1 see Thorne v. State, 174 So....

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