MS Supreme Court 7/22/10

Brown v. State.

In one of the most confusing reversals I have ever read, the Supreme Court 9-0 reversed a murder conviction, (Murder must have been the crime of the week in the appellate courts) that had been affirmed 10-0 by the Court of Appeals on the trial court’s failure to give a confusing jury instruction.

Johnny Brown was convicted of murder of his sometime girlfriend Violar Bracey.  Brown testified that he and Bracey had just had relations and Brown was laid back relaxing when he felt Bracey push him in the back of the head and he turned and saw the gun.  They struggled and the gun went off, killing Bracey.  Brown fled the scene, to see his kids because he knew he was going to jail.

At the trial, the State put on a number of witnesses who testified to the forensics of the scene.  Every witness contradicted Brown’s account of the shooting.

We already have found that the evidence against Brown was legally sufficient to sustain the jury’s verdict finding Brown guilty of the murder of Violar Bracey. Briefly stated, the evidence in favor of the State indicated Bracey’s hands were under a blanket at the time the fatal shot was fired while she was lying in bed. David Whitehead, a forensic scientist assigned to the trace-evidence section of the MCL in Jackson, testified that his tests of the gunshot-residue kit generated by the autopsy of Bracey revealed no gunshot residue on Bracey’s hands, which would thus contradict Brown’s theory of an accidental shooting while Brown and Bracey were struggling over the gun.

Certainly, the testimony of Whitehead, Hathcock, and Hayne would not support Brown’s theories of self-defense or accidental shooting in the killing of Bracey. However, this fact is of no moment when considering the instructions of law to be given to the jury by the trial judge.

Brown attempted to introduce a jury instruction that combined the elements of self-defense and an accidental shooting.  The prosecutor objected and the Trial Court sustained the objection and the instruction wasn’t given.

Regardless of the fact that neither the jury, the Court of Appeals nor the Supreme Court buys Brown’s theory, Brown is still entitled to his theory, and as such he is entitled to his jury instruction combining self-defense and accidental shooting.

The case was remanded back to Hinds County.

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One Response to “MS Supreme Court 7/22/10”

  1. Great Article. Its this attention to detail and keeping up with current trends that makes you the duke.

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