Court Discusses Standard for Consolidating Trials and Admitting Collateral Crime Evidence in a Florida Solicitation to Commit Murder Case

A person charged with a crime in Florida has certain rights that the State is not permitted to violate in order to obtain a conviction. For example, if a person is charged with more than one crime the state is limited as to whether evidence of the first crime can be introduced at trial for the second crime or whether the trials for each crime can be consolidated. A Florida appellate court recently discussed the standards for permitting a court to consolidate criminal trials and for introducing collateral crime evidence, in a case in which the defendant was charged with two separate crimes of solicitation to commit murder. If you are a Clearwater resident currently charged with more than one count of solicitation to commit homicide or any other homicide crime it is crucial to your defense to retain a seasoned Clearwater homicide defense attorney to fight to preclude any evidence the state should not be permitted to introduce at your trial.

The Defendant’s Alleged Crimes

Allegedly, the defendant was in jail awaiting trial for the crime of lewd and lascivious molestation of his former girlfriend’s daughter. He reportedly approached two other inmates on separate occasions to ask them to arrange the murders of three witnesses who were to testify on behalf of the State at the trial. The defendant was subsequently charged with two counts of solicitation to commit murder. Each solicitation crime was charged by a separate information but the cases were consolidated for trial. During the trial for the solicitation crimes, the inmates the defendant approached both testified that the defendant asked them to arrange the murders of witnesses in his upcoming molestation trial. Additionally, the defendant’s former girlfriend and the detective who investigated the molestation crime testified regarding the alleged molestation. The defendant was convicted on both solicitation charges, after which he appealed, arguing the court erred in consolidating the two cases and in admitting evidence of collateral crimes.

Consolidation of Offenses

In order to consolidate separate criminal cases for trial, the crimes must be significantly linked in some way. In other words, the State must be able to prove that some meaningful relationship exists between the crimes. In the subject case, the defendant argued that because there was no interrupted sequence between his alleged crimes, the crimes did not have a meaningful relationship. The court rejected this argument, stating that the meaningful relationship between the crimes was that they were part of a single effort to thwart the people who would testify against the defendant. Thus, the court found that the trial court did not err in permitting the consolidation.

Collateral Crime Evidence

The court also found that the admission of evidence of the defendant’s molestation charge was proper. In Florida, evidence of collateral crimes may be admitted when the evidence is inextricably linked to the charged offense. Such evidence is admissible if it is needed to properly describe the charged crime, establish the context out of which the charged crime arose, or sufficiently explain the events leading up to the charged crime. The court found that without the admission of the evidence of the defendant’s molestation charge the State would have been unable to establish the motive for the defendant’s solicitation crimes. Thus, the court found that the crimes were inextricably linked and the evidence was properly admitted.

Meet with a Skilled Clearwater Homicide Defense Attorney

If you are a resident of Clearwater facing charges of solicitation to commit first-degree murder it is essential to meet with a skilled Clearwater homicide defense attorney to discuss your case and your available defenses. Attorney William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is a proficient Clearwater homicide defense attorney who will work diligently to help you seek the best legal result possible under the facts of your case. You can call Mr. Hanlon at 727-897-5413 or contact him through the online form to set up a meeting regarding your case.


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