- Associated Press - Friday, August 14, 2015

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - A man convicted of killing a former co-worker and wounding five in 2009 should get a new trial because the judge in the case mistakenly allowed the jury to hear certain instructions before deliberating, a Florida appeals court said.

The Fifth District Court of Appeal ruled 3-0 on Friday that Judge Belvin Perry erred in instructing the jury how to examine Jason Rodriguez’s assertions that he was suffering hallucinations when he went on the shooting spree at an engineering firm in Orlando. Rodriguez was sentenced to life in prison in 2013.

The appeals court said at trial Rodriguez’s attorneys met the legal standard for insanity with experts who established him as a paranoid schizophrenic that was experiencing delusions. That satisfies the two-part legal test required since a June 2000 change in the Florida statute for establishing insanity as an affirmative defense.

But prosecutors were allowed by Judge Perry to insert a secondary instruction that the appeals court said, in effect, required jurors to weigh whether they thought Rodriguez was insane during the shooting.

The appeals court said Rodriguez “was not required to present proof of or establish any elements of his insanity defense” beyond the traditional two-part insanity test.

Since the outdated instruction was used, the appeals court said it “cannot say beyond a reasonable doubt that the jury was not misled into analyzing whether Rodriguez was sane under this instruction.”

State Attorney Jeff Ashton said in a statement that he disagreed with the ruling, calling it “an issue of great public importance in that it may potentially affect hundreds of cases in the state.”

He said he is requesting Attorney General Pam Bondi to seek further review by the Florida Supreme Court.

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