Check this article out: Murder sentence upheld by court (Herald Tribune, 10-12-09).
This is my case! Although we did not get an outright win in the appellate court, the case is still alive. You can read the actual opinion here: Merle Frances Zeigler v. State of Florida (2D07-5300).
This is all about a jury instruction, which is the law as is read to the juror by the trial judge, that the jurors have to use to determine whether the State proved it case. Jurors listen to the facts of a case, and right before they deliberate the judge tells them what the law is, and how to apply the facts to that law to render a verdict. Otherwise, how would a regular citizen know what the specifics of the crime charged are when deciding whether to convict or acquit? It is a vital part of the trial, and errors in jury instructions often result in reversals.
What the reporter fails to fully explain is that the case is going to the Florida Supreme Court because there is a clear conflict in the law as decided by two different appellate courts. The Second District Court of Appeal in Lakeland seems to be in the minority. The First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee opined year-before-last that the manslaughter jury instruction was wrong. The Florida Bar committee on criminal jury instructions apparently agreed, and recommended that the manslaughter instruction be changed. The Florida Supreme Court agreed and actually changed the jury instruction. The old – and arguable wrong – version was given in my client’s case at trial.
What that means is that now the Florida Supreme Court will take a look at the case and make a decision as to whether the old (and again, arguably wrong) version should not have been given. If they deem that the Second District is indeed incorrect, then Ms. Zeigler will get a new trial.
This is an example of what an appellate attorney can do for a defendant in an otherwise seemingly hopeless situation!
Here’s the article link again: Murder sentence upheld by court | HeraldTribune.com | Sarasota Florida | Southwest Florida’s Information Leader.