Can a Harmless Error Analysis Be Applied to a Case of Assault on Minor and Child Abuse by Impregnating the Victim ?

In Galindez v. State, 955 So. 2d 517, 518 (Fla. 2007), a jury found the defendant guilty of "two counts of lewd and lascivious assault on a minor and one count of child abuse by impregnating the victim." Galindez, 955 So. 2d at 519-20. Yet Galindez's scoresheet assessed 240 points for penetration. Id. at 520. This Court concluded that any Apprendi error was harmless. Id. at 523. This Court stated that "[i]n light of the clear and uncontested record evidence of penetration . . . we hold that no reasonable jury would have returned a verdict finding there was no penetration." Id. at 524. In reaching its conclusion, this Court relied on the harmless error analysis applied by the United States Supreme Court in Washington v. Recuenco, 548 U.S. 212, 126 S. Ct. 2546, 165 L. Ed. 2d 466 (2006) (reversing the Washington Supreme Court's holding that harmless error analysis does not apply to an Apprendi error). See 955 So. 2d at 521-22. This Court noted that it had "long applied" the harmless error test announced in Chapman v. California, 386 U.S. 18, 87 S. Ct. 824, 17 L. Ed. 2d 705 (1967), and outlined in DiGuilio, which we described as questioning whether it is "clear beyond a reasonable doubt that a rational jury would have found the defendant guilty absent the error." 955 So. 2d 522 (quoting Neder v. United States, 527 U.S. 1, 18, 119 S. Ct. 1827, 144 L. Ed. 2d 35 (1999)). In Galindez, the Supreme Court of Florida applied a harmless error analysis even though the fact that led to the enhanced sentence had never been submitted to the jury. Although we did not know what the jury would have actually determined or what questions the jury would have asked if the fact enhancing the sentence had been submitted to the jury, we held that a harmless error analysis was appropriate.