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Steven Gilchrease vs. The State of Florida
Third District Court of Appeal State of Florida
Case Number: 3D16-1027
Judge: Robert J. Luck
Court: Third District Court of Appeal State of Florida
Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, and Christina L. Dominguez, Assistant Attorney General
Carlos J. Martinez, Public Defender, and Natasha Baker-Bradley, Assistant Public Defender
Description: Gilchrease had rented an efficiency from Etta McKensie for about six
months prior to the February 28 incident. Sometime in January, water to the
efficiency was turned off. On February 25, the electricity was turned off.
Gilchrease confronted Ms. McKensie about the utilities, and, according to Ms.
McKensie, Gilchrease threatened her and pulled out the chair she was sitting on.
Subsequently, on February 28, Gilchrease again confronted Ms. McKensie, and
pushed her, causing her to stumble backward. Gilchrease was arrested for the
latter incident and charged with battery of a person sixty-five years or older.
Prior to trial, defense counsel moved in limine to exclude evidence of the
February 25 confrontation as irrelevant and prejudicial. The State argued the
evidence was admissible to prove Gilchrease’s motive and an absence of mistake.
The trial court ruled the evidence was admissible to prove “motive and any
mistake and any other attempt to bring in the testimony for any other reasons,” and
Ms. McKensie testified as to the incident at trial. The jury returned a verdict of
guilty, and the trial court sentenced Gilchrease to 180 days in the county jail and
two years of probation.
On appeal, Gilchrease contends admission of the objected to evidence was
error because it constituted prejudicial evidence of an uncharged crime, the
admission of which destroyed his right to a fair trial. We disagree.
The State may introduce evidence of an uncharged crime where that
evidence is relevant to an issue in dispute and is not being used solely to show the
defendant’s propensity to commit a crime. § 90.404(2)(a), Fla. Stat. (2015). Here,
evidence of the February 25 incident was relevant to Gilchrease’s motive and
intent in confronting and pushing Ms. McKensie.
As to motive, the testimony about the February 28 incident, the one that was
charged, was that Gilchrease confronted Ms. McKenzie in her home, pushed her in
the chest and forehead, and said, “You don’t know what I’ll do to you.”1
Gilchrease’s words and actions on February 28, however, did not explain his
motive for confronting and pushing Ms. McKenzie, in other words, why he did
what he did. The February 25 incident, which happened three days earlier, after
the electricity and water had been shut off, filled in the gap to explain Gilchrease’s
motive for the February 28 battery.
On February 25, after the lights went off, Gilchrease confronted Ms.
McKenzie and said, “The light off, I’m not moving, and I’m not giving you any
1 A second witness, Ms. McKenzie’s friend, testified that Gilchrease pushed Ms. McKenzie in the forehead and said, “Do you know who you’re fooling with? I will put you down.”
money. . . . [Y]ou don’t know me. You don’t know me.” Gilchrease then pulled
Ms. McKenzie’s chair out from under her. The February 25 incident explained
that Gilchrease’s motive for pushing Ms. McKenzie, and saying what he said, was
that he was upset about the water and electricity being turned off, and blamed Ms.
McKenzie for it. The February 25 incident, therefore, was relevant and admissible
as motive evidence under section 90.404(2)(a). See Jackson v. State, 522 So. 2d
802, 806 (Fla. 1988) (“The testimony of a prior assault on the victim McKay by
Jackson during an argument over drugs was not so remote in time as to be
irrelevant and supported the state’s theory that Jackson’s motive for killing Milton
and McKay was his belief that they were stealing his drugs and taking advantage
of him.”); Craig v. State, 510 So. 2d 857, 863 (Fla. 1987) (“We find that the
evidence of appellant's thefts of cattle on several occasions was relevant to show
his motive for killing Eubanks and Farmer. The cattle thefts were not wholly
independent of the murders but rather were an integral part of the entire factual
context in which the charged crimes took place. While evidence of motive is not
necessary to a conviction, when it is available and would help the jury to
understand the other evidence presented, it should not be kept from them merely
because it reveals the commission of crimes not charged. The test for admissibility
is not the necessity of evidence, but rather its relevancy.” (citations omitted)).
The February 25 incident also was relevant to prove Gilchrease had the
intent to commit battery on Ms. McKenzie. The battery statute requires the state to
prove that the defendant “intentionally touch[ed] or str[uck] another person against
the will of the other.” § 784.03(1)(a)1., Fla. Stat. (2015). The February 25
incident, which involved Gilchrease confronting, and pulling the chair out from
under, Ms. McKenzie was relevant to show that his push was willful and
purposeful because of his continued anger about the utilities being turned off. See
Charles W. Ehrhardt, Florida Evidence § 404.14, at 255-56 (2006 ed.) (“Although
motive itself is usually not an ultimate issue, it supplies the basis from which the
jury may infer that the defendant intended to do the act.”); see also Beard v. State,
842 So. 2d 174, 176 (Fla. 2d DCA 2003) (“Intent is a necessary element of battery,
and must be determined by the surrounding circumstances.”). The prior incident
showed Gilchrease’s state of mind when he went to Ms. McKenzie’s home on