Are Emotional Displays Grounds for a Retrial ?

In Burns v. State, 609 So. 2d 600, 605(Fla. 1992), Burns claimed that he was deprived of a fair trial because of emotional displays by the victim's wife. There, the Court determined that the record did not reveal any prejudicial exhibition of emotion entitling Burns to a new trial. In Gore v. State, 599 So. 2d 978, 986 (Fla. 1992), the appellant claimed that the trial court erred in excusing the victim's stepmother from the rule of witness sequestration solely because she was a relative of the victim. In analyzing Gore's claim, this Court observed that the Florida Constitution grants to the next of kin of homicide victims "the right to be informed, to be present, and to be heard when relevant, at all crucial stages of criminal proceedings, to the extent that these rights do not interfere with the constitutional rights of the accused." Art. I, 16(b), Fla. Const. The Court noted, however, that this provision does not provide an automatic exception to the rule of sequestration. "While in general relatives of homicide victims have the right to be present at trial, this right must yield to the defendant's right to a fair trial." 599 So. 2d at 985-86. In Gore, the Court found that the courtroom presence of the stepmother (who testified only regarding jewelry which the victim commonly wore) did not prejudice the defendant. Therefore, it found no abuse of discretion in allowing this nonmaterial witness to be excluded from the rule. Id.