Contact Between the Judge and the Prosecutor

In Maharaj v. State, 778 So. 2d 944 (Fla. 2000), the State did not appeal the trial court's granting of a new sentencing proceeding and this Court affirmed this issue without discussion. See 778 So. 2d at 947-48, 959. In Riechmann, this Court reviewed the trial court's order granting a new penalty phase and concluded that the trial court properly considered "the nature of the contact between the judge and the prosecutor, when the judge was given the order, and when he gave copies to the defendant," in determining that "Riechmann was denied an independent weighing of the aggravating and mitigating circumstances." 777 So. 2d at 352. This Court noted that the record supported the trial court findings that "the record contains no oral findings independently made by the trial judge, which satisfies the weighing process required by section 921.141(3), nor did defense counsel know that the State prepared a sentencing order to which he failed to object." Id. In Roberts v. State, 840 So. 2d 962 (Fla. 2002), this Court affirmed the trial court's findings that the sentencing order was prepared by the State after an ex parte communication with the trial judge. Although contradictory evidence was presented as to whether the trial judge asked the State to prepare the sentencing order, this Court found that the lower court's ruling was supported by substantial competent evidence and affirmed the grant of a new sentencing proceeding. See Roberts, 840 So. 2d at 972-73.