What Is Considered a ''fUndamental Error'' In the Context of Trial Comments ?

Fundamental error is "error that 'reaches down into the validity of the trial itself to the extent that a verdict of guilty could not have been obtained without the assistance of the alleged error.'" Brooks v. State, 762 So. 2d 879, 899 (Fla. 2000) (quoting McDonald v. State, 743 So. 2d 501, 505 (Fla. 1999)). In Jones v. State, 612 So. 2d 1370, 1373 (Fla. 1992), the court held that the trial court's improper comment to the State's witness, "That's correct, according to the previous witness, Mr. Stout," was not fundamental error. 612 So. 2d at 1373. The Court emphasized that the trial court's comment pertained to only a minor detail of the codefendant's testimony. Thus, the error did not affect the validity of the trial. See id. at 1373-74, 1376; see also Harmon v. State, 527 So. 2d 182, 186 (Fla. 1988) (holding no fundamental error where trial court commented four times on a State witness's credibility during defense counsel's attempt to impeach the witness, including one comment that "the statements seemed consistent to the trial court also, but that it was for the jury to decide").