Court Explains the Evidentiary Concept of “Opening the Door” in Florida Criminal Cases

In Florida, the law affords a person suspected of a crime certain rights and protections. For example, the State is prohibited from introducing evidence of bad acts that are not related to the offense charged against a criminal defendant at trial, unless an exception to the rule applies. Recently, a Florida appellate court upheld a conviction where the defendant  was convicted of solicitation to commit murder, finding that the trial court did not err in permitting evidence of bad acts under the evidentiary principle of “opening the door.” If you are charged with solicitation to commit murder or any other violent crime in Sarasota, it is important to retain the services of a skilled Sarasota criminal defense attorney who will work vigorously to preclude any evidence that should not be admitted against you.

The Defendant’s Alleged Criminal Acts

Allegedly, the defendant’s boyfriend approached the police and advised them that the defendant intended to kill her husband. The boyfriend agreed to be an informant for the police. Subsequently, the police recorded conversations between the defendant and her boyfriend and between the defendant and an undercover police officer, who the defendant believed was a hit man. The undercover officer agreed to kill the defendant’s husband. The police then faked a crime scene and informed the defendant that her husband was murdered. The defendant was ultimately charged with solicitation to commit first degree murder. Due to various issues, the defendant ultimately underwent three trials.

It is reported that prior to the third trial the defendant filed a motion in limine to preclude the State from introducing evidence of bad acts other than the crime for which she was charged. The court denied the motion. Following the trial, the defendant was convicted of the charged offense. She appealed her conviction on several grounds, including the argument that the court erred in allowing the state to introduce evidence of bad acts for which she was not charged.

The Evidentiary Concept of “Opening the Door”

The defendant appealed on several grounds, including the argument that the trial court erred in allowing the State to introduce evidence that the defendant told her boyfriend she tried to poison her husband with antifreeze on prior occasions. The court noted that the defendant’s attorney had elicited testimony from the defendant’s boyfriend that he did not believe the defendant actually intended to kill her husband. As such, the court found that the defendant had “opened the door” for the State to impeach the boyfriend by introducing evidence that the defendant had previously advised the boyfriend of her attempts to poison her husband.

The court explained that the evidentiary concept of opening the door allows otherwise inadmissible testimony to be admitted for the purposes of limiting or explaining previously admitted testimony. The concept of “opening the door” is based on the truth-seeking purpose of a trial and considerations of fairness. In the subject case, the court found that the evidence regarding the defendant’s alleged attempts to poison her husband was necessary to limit the boyfriend’s testimony. As such, the court found that the trial court did not error in admitting such evidence.

Retain a Skilled Sarasota Criminal Defense Attorney to Defend You

If you live in Sarasota and are charged with solicitation to commit murder, it is essential to retain a skilled Sarasota criminal defense attorney to help you formulate a strong defense. William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is a proficient Sarasota violent crimes defense attorney who will work tirelessly to try and prohibit the state from introducing any evidence against you that should be precluded. Mr. Hanlon can be contacted at 727-897-5413 or through the form online to schedule a confidential and free meeting.

More blog posts:

Florida Court Vacates Conviction for Possession of a Conveyance to be used for Trafficking Due to Lack of Evidence, February 12, 2019, Sarasota Criminal Attorney Blog

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