Randel Lee Humphreys vs. State of Florida
This unanimous decision overturned a conviction of aggravated battery. The charge was sent back to the lower courts for a new trial. The ruling reads:
"Whether Humphreys’s flare gun was a deadly weapon therefore depended on how he used it, and this was a jury question. ... The issued jury instruction affected the verdict because it was incorrect and incomplete based on the facts of this case."
The charges were overturned because the jury's instructions were "incorrect and incomplete". The standard jury instructions for aggravated battery were edited by the trial judge. One of these changes was to replace the phrase "deadly weapon" with "firearm" (see page 3 of ruling for all changes). Neither the Defense or Prosecution objected to these changes at trial.
In order to be convicted of aggravated battery, the weapon used must be considered a "deadly weapon". The changes made to the jury instruction may have fundamentally changed the verdict. Leaving out the term "deadly weapon" is considered a serious error.
During the trial the Defense argued that the flare gun was not a "deadly weapon". This makes the jury instructions even more important. The jury should have been instructed to decide if the flare gun was a "deadly weapon" based on how Humphreys used it. To do this, they should have been provided a definition of "deadly weapon".
Humphreys was in the process of divorce. He attacked his wife. His daughter called 911 from her bedroom. Humphreys broke into her room and hit her in the head with a flare gun. Humphreys later shot the flare gun at the officer responding to the 911 call, who returned fire.
Humphreys was charged with 2 counts of attempted second-degree murder for his wife and the deputy. He was convicted of misdemeanor battery and attempted manslaughter. He does not appeal these convictions.
He was also charged and convicted of 1 count of aggravated battery against his daughter. The jury concluded he had a firearm. He received 10 years for this conviction. He appeals this conviction.