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Florida Supreme Court Clarifies Harmless Error Test

Florida’s Supreme Court has held that when applying the harmless error analysis, it is not an “overwhelming evidence test.” The focus of the test is “the effect of the error on the trier of fact. The question is whether there is a reasonable possibility that the error affected the verdict.”

At trial, a detective commented twice on Javier Dejeses Ventura’s invocation of his right to remain silent. The Fourth District Court of Appeal found the comments were improper, stating, “we fail to see how the detective’s comment, twice repeated, could have been anything other than an intentional cheap shot at Ventura’s constitutional rights.”

That court, however, held the error was harmless “given the overwhelming evidence of guilt.” The Supreme Court remanded for consideration of the proper test.
See: Ventura v. State, 29 So.3d 1086 (Fla. 2010).

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Related legal case

Ventura v. State