To prove the crime of Manslaughter, the State must prove the following two elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
1. (Victim) is dead. 2. a. (Defendant) intentionally caused the death of (victim).
The court held that: we conclude that this language was insufficient to erode the import of the second element: that the jury must find that the defendant intended to cause the death of the victim. We agree with the district court‘s observation in Montgomery that a reasonable jury would believe that in order to convict Montgomery of manslaughter by act, it had to find that he intended to kill Ellis.
But was the error fundamental, necessitating a new trial for the appellant? Yup. Winner winner chicken dinner for the appellant!
Montgomery was entitled to an accurate instruction on the lesser included offense of manslaughter. The instruction in this case, requiring the jury to find that Montgomery intended to kill Ellis, erroneously explained Florida law on manslaughter by act. Moreover, it was ―pertinent or material to what the jury must consider in order to convict.‖ State v. Delva, 575 So. 2d 643, 645 (Fla. 1991) (quoting Stewart v. State, 420 So. 2d 862, 863 (Fla. 1982)). Thus, we conclude that fundamental error occurred in this case, where Montgomery was indicted and tried for first-degree murder and ultimately convicted of second-degree murder after the jury was erroneously instructed on the lesser included offense of manslaughter.
So there you have it. Dinner at Raos and a new jury instruction for Manslaughter.
See you in court.