The State May Adduce Any Testimony That the Trial Court Deems Relevant In Support of Prior Violent Felony Aggravating Circumstance
The Supreme Court of Florida has repeatedly held that the State is not restricted to the bare admission of a conviction when presenting evidence in support of the prior violent felony aggravating circumstance. See Rhodes v. State, 547 So. 2d 1201, 1204 (Fla. 1989); Delap v. State, 440 So. 2d 1242, 1255-56 (Fla. 1983); Elledge v. State, 346 So. 2d 998, 1001-02 (Fla. 1977).
Rather, the State may adduce any testimony that the trial court deems relevant to the nature of the crime and the character of the defendant. See 921.141(1), Fla. Stat. (2006); Delap, 440 So. 2d at 1255.
"Whether a crime constitutes a prior violent felony is determined by the surrounding facts and circumstances of the prior crime." Anderson v. State, 841 So. 2d 390, 407 (Fla. 2003) (holding that trial court did not err in admitting testimony that demonstrated the defendant's conviction for attempted sexual battery was actually a completed sexual battery).
In Elledge the court explained:
This is so because we believe the purpose for considering aggravating and mitigating circumstances is to engage in a character analysis of the defendant to ascertain whether the ultimate penalty is called for in his or her particular case.
Propensity to commit violent crimes surely must be a valid consideration for the jury and the judge.
It is matter that can contribute to decisions as to sentence which will lead to uniform treatment and help eliminate "total arbitrariness and capriciousness in the imposition" of the death penalty. 346 So. 2d at 1001 (quoting Proffitt v. Florida, 428 U.S. 242, 258, 96 S. Ct. 2960, 49 L. Ed. 2d 913 (1976)).
In addition, "testimony concerning the events which resulted in the conviction assists the jury in evaluating the character of the defendant and the circumstances of the crime so that the jury can make an informed recommendation as to the appropriate sentence." Rhodes, 547 So. 2d at 1204.