When a unanimous verdict may not be unanimous…

April 9, 2024

When a unanimous verdict may not be unanimous…

In Parsons v. State, 376 So. 3d 747 (Fla. 4th DCA 2024), Mr. Parsons was convicted and sentenced for giving false information to a pawnbroker, dealing in stolen property, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of alprazolam, and possession of hydromorphone. Mr. Parsons only appealed the convictions on the counts charging him with giving false information and dealing in stolen property, arguing that fundamental error occurred because the jury’s verdict was possibly not unanimous. The state confessed its trial error. The appellate court agreed and remanded for a retrial on those two charges. See Parsons, 376 So. 3d at 748 (citing Perley v. State, 947 So 2d 672, 674-75 (Fla. 4th DCA 2007) (fundamental error occurs where jury is allowed “to deliberate on two separate instances of [a crime] where [the defendant] was only charged with one count of [the crime].”)).

Where the state submits that a defendant may be convicted on a charge “based on multiple possible acts of the alleged crime, the possibility of a non-unanimous verdict arises and fundamental error occurs.”

Id. Under the State Constitution, “a criminal conviction requires a unanimous verdict in Florida.” See Shahgodary v. State, 336 So. 3d 8, 11 (Fla. 4th DCA 2022). The prosecution alleged that Mr. Parsons sold stolen tools to a pawn shop in “two separate sales on two separate days in April 2021.” See Parsons 376 So. 3d at 748. Here, the prosecutor argued to the jury that it could convict Parsons on the pawnbroker and stolen property charges over either sale. Instead of charging each sale in a separate count, or arguing at trial that one sale supported the charged counts, the prosecutor presented both sales and argued that a verdict could be reached based on either sale. Although the jury unanimously convicted on both counts, “it is impossible to know whether the jury unanimously agreed on which sale supported the guilty verdict, as some jurors could have found the first sale supported the charges, whereas other jurors could have found the second sale supported the charges. In this regard, fundamental error occurred, and the case must be remanded for a new trial”. Id. at 749.

The Parsons case offers a warning to Florida criminal defense attorneys to beware of state manipulation of the facts and charges to obtain the illusion of a unanimous jury verdict. Only those lawyers who stay up-to-date on the law are worthy of the trust of men and women accused of criminal conduct.

If you or a loved one have been accused of criminal conduct, we can help. Please give our office a call (772) 464-1991.


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