What is Conspiracy?

Florida Law Penalizing Co-Conspirators

Under Florida law, the independent act doctrine applies when one co-felon, who previously participated in a common plan, does not participate in all acts committed by his co-felon, which fall outside of, and are foreign to, the common design of the original collaboration. This is limited exception and if applicable, a co-defendant is not punished for the independent act of a co-felon who exceeds the scope of the original criminal plan. William Moore, Criminal Lawyer Broward County

In Jarrord Roberts v. State of Florida, Defendant Roberts appealed on the basis that the trial court refused to grant instruction on the independent act doctrine. In this case, Defendant Roberts accompanied his cousin, Renaldo McGirth, and Theodore Houston to the home of Sheila Miller who was residing with her parents James and Diana Miller. At the home, Defendant Roberts stayed in the living with Diana Miller while McGrith produced a handgun and instructed Houston to bound Sheila Miller with duct tape that had been purchased en route to the Miller residence. Then, Diana Miller was called into the room where Sheila Miller was and either McGirth or Houston demanded money and shot her in the chest inflicting a non-fatal wound. Roberts brought Mr. Miller into the bedroom, forced him to the floor, and collected the Miller’s wallets and car keys. McGirth then shot both Diana and James Miller in the head which resulted in Diana’s death. Roberts then physically removed Sheila into the Miller’s van. Roberts and McGirth drove to several ATM’s and made cash withdrawals, followed by Houston in the vehicle all defendants had arrived in. After a high speed chase, law enforcement later apprehended the defendants and found Defendant Roberts’ fingerprints on the Miller’s stolen credit cards.

Defendant Roberts was charged with first degree murder, attempted first degree murder, robbery with a firearm, and kidnapping. Defendant was convicted of robbery with a firearm and the lesser included charges of manslaughter and attempted manslaughter. The trial court denied Defendant Robert’s request for the jury instruction as it pertains to the independent act doctrine.

The Fifth District Court of Appeal held that Defendant Roberts was not entitled to the instruction on the independent act doctrine and affirmed the trial court’s decision. The court’s analysis was based on the evidence that Defendant Roberts knew of and participated in the robbery of the Millers. Roberts was there when the duct tape was purchased, knew McGirth was armed, and knew that he had shot Diana Miller. After Diana Miller was shot, Roberts participated in stealing property, moved Mr. Miller into the bedroom, moved Sheila into the Miller’s van, and possessed the Miller’s property at the time of his arrest. The appellate court held that Defendant Roberts was a willing participant in the robbery and that the murders were in furtherance of that plan. No evidence supported instructing the jury on the independent act doctrine. The independent act instruction is inappropriate when the unrebutted evidence shows that the defendant knowingly participated in the underlying criminal enterprise when the murder occurred or knew that firearms or deadly weapons would be used.

A conspiracy is an agreement between two or more persons to commit a criminal offense. Co-conspirators are usually held liable for acts committed in furtherance of the conspiracy if those acts are foreseeable. Florida law provides a limited exception for which co-conspirators and/or co-felons will not be liable for acts of other co-conspirators.

Under Florida law, the independent act doctrine applies when one co-felon, who previously participated in a common plan, does not participate in all acts committed by his co-felon, which fall outside of, and are foreign to, the common design of the original collaboration. This is limited exception and if applicable, a co-defendant is not punished for the independent act of a co-felon who exceeds the scope of the original criminal plan.

In Jarrord Roberts v. State of Florida, Defendant Roberts appealed on the basis that the trial court refused to grant instruction on the independent act doctrine. In this case, Defendant Roberts accompanied his cousin, Renaldo McGirth, and Theodore Houston to the home of Sheila Miller who was residing with her parents James and Diana Miller. At the home, Defendant Roberts stayed in the living with Diana Miller while McGrith produced a handgun and instructed Houston to bound Sheila Miller with duct tape that had been purchased en route to the Miller residence. Then, Diana Miller was called into the room where Sheila Miller was and either McGirth or Houston demanded money and shot her in the chest inflicting a non-fatal wound. Roberts brought Mr. Miller into the bedroom, forced him to the floor, and collected the Miller’s wallets and car keys. McGirth then shot both Diana and James Miller in the head which resulted in Diana’s death. Roberts then physically removed Sheila into the Miller’s van. Roberts and McGirth drove to several ATM’s and made cash withdrawals, followed by Houston in the vehicle all defendants had arrived in. After a high speed chase, law enforcement later apprehended the defendants and found Defendant Roberts’ fingerprints on the Miller’s stolen credit cards.

Defendant Roberts was charged with first degree murder, attempted first degree murder, robbery with a firearm, and kidnapping. Defendant was convicted of robbery with a firearm and the lesser included charges of manslaughter and attempted manslaughter. The trial court denied Defendant Robert’s request for the jury instruction as it pertains to the independent act doctrine.

The Fifth District Court of Appeal held that Defendant Roberts was not entitled to the instruction on the independent act doctrine and affirmed the trial court’s decision. The court’s analysis was based on the evidence that Defendant Roberts knew of and participated in the robbery of the Millers. Roberts was there when the duct tape was purchased, knew McGirth was armed, and knew that he had shot Diana Miller. After Diana Miller was shot, Roberts participated in stealing property, moved Mr. Miller into the bedroom, moved Sheila into the Miller’s van, and possessed the Miller’s property at the time of his arrest. The appellate court held that Defendant Roberts was a willing participant in the robbery and that the murders were in furtherance of that plan. No evidence supported instructing the jury on the independent act doctrine. The independent act instruction is inappropriate when the unrebutted evidence shows that the defendant knowingly participated in the underlying criminal enterprise when the murder occurred or knew that firearms or deadly weapons would be used.

Our Felon Defense Attorneys at The William Moore Law Firm can answer any questions on felony charges in Broward County. Contact Fort Lauderdale William Moore Criminal Defense.