Defendant’s Suicide Attempt Used Against Him at Trial in Florida

At trials in criminal cases, the state will attempt to use whatever evidence it can to show that the defendant is guilty of the crime(s) with which he/she is charged. What such evidence consists of depends on the nature of the case. For example, in a recent case near Jacksonville, Florida, the defendant was charged with multiple counts of lewd or lascivious molestation, a very serious felony charge. After the allegations came out but before the arrest, the defendant apparently tried to commit suicide with pills. At the trial on the lewd or lascivious molestation charges, the state brought out that the defendant tried to commit suicide. The criminal defense lawyer objected to that evidence, but the court allowed it.

According to the court, the state is permitted to introduce evidence that a person is trying to evade prosecution for a crime(s). Under the Florida rules of evidence, acts of the defendant which tend to show his/her consciousness of guilt are normally admissible at trial. Common examples of this are when a person tries to run away from an arrest or conceal him/herself from being located by law enforcement. However, there have also been examples where a suspect or defendant has attempted suicide after learning of criminal allegations or being arrested. In those cases, the state may be permitted to tell the jury about the suicide attempt and basically argue that the defendant tried to commit suicide because he/she knew he/she was guilty and wanted to avoid prosecution. Vague comments about possibly committing suicide may not be admissible at trial if they are not serious, but an actual suicide attempt may very well be admissible in a criminal trial, and the state will use it to argue the suicide attempt was an attempt to avoid being prosecuted by someone who knows he/she is guilty.

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