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Law School Case Brief

Young v. State - 753 So. 2d 725 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2000)


The word maliciously provides a definite standard of conduct understandable by a person of ordinary intelligence. Malice means ill will, hatred, spite, an evil intent. That definition of malice is consistently employed in aggravated child abuse cases.


Defendant Yonbloksis V. Young was charged with aggravated child abuse in violation of Fla. Stat. ch. 827.03(2)(b) of her seven year old son. The information alleged that Young "did maliciously punish the said child, by striking said child with a cord." At trial in Florida state court, over Young's objections, the judge gave the standard jury instruction, which included a malice definition at odds with the definition in prior decisions from the Supreme Court of the United States and the Supreme Court of Florida. Young was convicted and subsequently filed a motion for a new trial, arguing the trial court's jury instruction was erroneousl. The motion was denied, and Young was convicted. Young appealed. 


Was the standard jury instruction on aggravated child abuse properly given?




The state supreme court concluded that the standard jury instruction on aggravated child abuse given by the trial court included a prejudicially erroneous definition of the word "maliciously," and thus the trial court erred in giving that instruction. The instruction given permitted the jury to return a guilty verdict based upon a finding of only legal, or technical, malice, rather than actual malice, or malice in fact. Because the jury might well have concluded from the evidence that Young had not acted "maliciously" had it been properly charged, the error was harmful. As such, the court reversed the conviction and remanded the case for a new trial.

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