May a Judge Take Into Account His Own Observations of the Defendant During the Trial ?
In Johnson v. State, 442 So. 2d 185, 190 (Fla. 1983), the defendant took "issue with the fact that the trial judge in finding that the mitigating circumstances did not apply took into account his 'own observations of the Defendant during the trial, as well as his testimony in pretrial proceedings.'" Id.
The Court held: "The judge is not relying on information that is not available to the defendant.
Although justice should be blind, judges are not.
They may properly notice a defendant's behavior and draw inferences concerning matters such as whether the defendant is capable of appreciating the criminality of his conduct." Id.
The Court further explained:
It would help if a judge who relies on his personal observations would describe them in detail in order to give a reviewing court a basis for deciding whether his conclusions are correct.
However, in this case the trial judge gave sufficient reasons to support his conclusions independent of the personal observations, so we find no error. Id.