Category Archives: Self-Defense

Jackson, Mississippi criminal defense lawyer discusses issues relating to self-defense under Mississippi criminal law.

Mississippi Criminal Defense Lawyer: Aggravated Assault Charges Dismissed

We are pleased to announce that aggravated assault charges have been dismissed against one of our clients.  The charges were pending in Madison County, Mississippi.

Our client, DV, was charged with aggravated assault in Madison County, which occurred in Ridgeland, Mississippi.  She was accused of stabbing the alleged victim.  DV hired me as her lawyer immediately after she was arrested.

Bond was initially set so high that DV could not get out of jail.  The first order of business was to get a bond reduction.  Within one (1) week of hiring me, I got her bond reduced by 80%, and she bonded out of jail and went home to her family.

As soon as DV made bail, we went to work on the defense investigation of the case.  DV said she acted in self-defense.  We located a witness who saw everything that happened.  This witness was never interviewed by the police.  We convinced the witness to give us a recorded statement.  The statement backed up DV’s claim of self-defense.

As a lawyer who handles aggravated assault cases in Mississippi, I knew that self-defense would be a defense to this charge, so we next began to look into the character and background of the victim.  Our investigation revealed that the victim had criminal convictions for false pretenses in Hinds County, and was currently on probation.  We also discovered that the victim had an active warrant for her arrest.  This information was very relevant to the victim’s credibility as a witness.  This information was disclosed to the prosecutor as required by Mississippi criminal discovery rules.

Trial was set to begin on Tuesday of last week.  The day before trial, the prosecutor notified me that the State had agreed to dismiss the aggravated assault charges against DV.  This was certainly the best result possible, and the prosecutor should be commended for disposing of this case prior to trial.  

As a criminal defense attorney, the most rewarding part of my job is to call a client and tell them that criminal charges have been dismissed.  It was even more rewarding in this case because there was never a doubt in my mind that the client was innocent of these charges.  I also had no doubt that the “victim” would have killed the client had she not defended herself.  It was a clear case of self-defense under Mississippi aggravated assault law, and it was our privilege to protect DV and keep her out of prison.  And now that the charges have been dismissed, we can even get the charge expunged from her record.

This aggravated assault case shows some things you need to know if you are charged with assault in Mississippi:

(1) Just because you get arrested, charged or indicted for assault, it does not always mean you will be convicted;

(2) If you get charged with assault in Mississippi and think it was self-defense, it probably was;

(3) If you are charged with assault in Mississippi you need a criminal lawyer who handles assault cases–and has the knowledge and experience to protect your rights and keep you out of prison;

(4) If you get charged with assault in Mississippi, you need a lawyer who knows how to investigate and prepare assault cases before trial.  Do not assume that the police have interviewed all the witnesses or found all the facts and evidence in your case.  This is the job of a criminal defense lawyer, and can be the difference between going home, or going to prison.

I’m a Mississippi criminal defense lawyer who handles assault cases.  If you have been charged with assault in Mississippi, please contact me at 601.944.1984 to discuss your case.  While I can’t guarantee the same result we got for DV, you can rest assured that we will do everything under the sun, leaving no rock unturned, to get your assault charges dismissed.

Curt Crowley is a Mississippi criminal defense lawyer and is based in Jackson, Mississippi.  He handles assault and other criminal cases in Madison County, Ridgeland, Canton, Madison, Flora and throughout the State of Mississippi.

Jackson, Mississippi Criminal Defense Lawyer Discusses The Right of Self-Defense

Mississippi law has long-recognized that a person has the right to defend himself from death or serious bodily injury at the hands of another person.  Many times, a person will be charged with a violent crime, when in fact he was defending himself.  Understanding Mississippi law on self-defense is critical to successfully defending these charges.

Mississippi appears to place a much higher value on self-defense than other states.  Our Courts have held that a person has the “inalienable right” to use reasonable force to repel an assault by another person.  A person is deemed to be acting in self-defense when he reasonably believes he is in danger of death or serious bodily injury. 

Whether or not the defendant’s belief was reasonable is based on the facts existing at the time.  Further, the law requires that these facts be considered from the Defendant’s standpoint.  Juries are not allowed to consider facts which come to light after the assault.  The only consideration is the circumstances facing the defendant at the moment the incident occurred. 

Mississippi law also provides that it makes no difference if the defendant wasn’t actually in danger at all, or if he was mistaken in his belief that he was in danger.  Even if the defendant is mistaken and wasn’t actually in danger, it’s still self-defense, so long as the defendant honestly believed he was about to face death or serious bodily injury.

Mississippi also allows for “preemptive strikes.”  This means that a person is not required to stand around and wait to get assaulted before acting in self-defense.  If a person reasonably believes he is about to be assaulted, he can strike first to prevent the assault from happening.  On that note, Courts typically instruct juries as follows:

The Court instructs the jury that when a person is assaulted, or about to be assaulted, he is not required to wait until his adversary is on equal terms with him, but may rightfully anticipate his adversary’s action, and use reasonable force to prevent himself from being assaulted.

Finally, the defendant does not have the burden of proving that he acted in self-defense.  The State must prove to the jury, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant was not acting in self-defense.

Mississippi law goes to great lengths to protect the right of self-defense.  If you’ve been charged with a violent crime in Mississippi and were acting in self-defense, please contact me to discuss your case.

Mississippi Criminal Defense Lawyer Curt Crowley

Jackson, Mississippi Criminal Defense Lawyer Reports On Yazoo County Deputy Sheriff Killing Suspect

A Yazoo County Deputy Sheriff fatally shot and killed a Brandon man after responding to a disturbance call yesterday. According to a report by Heather Civil at The Clarion-Ledger:

William Edward Parker was shot during a scuffle with a Yazoo County sheriff’s deputy, county coroner Ricky Shivers said.

The 36-year-old was fatally wounded shortly after 1 a.m. after deputies responded to a disturbance call at a house on Beale Road in northern Yazoo County.

Williams was shot once in the thigh, and the fatal shot was delivered to his chest, according to Shivers.

The Sheriff’s Department has not released the deputy’s name or any information about the shooting.

Sheriff Tommy Vaughn could not be reached for comment.

The Mississippi Bureau of Investigations is handling the case. Officers with MBI could not be reached.

Parker was declared dead around 2:30 a.m. at Kings Daughter’s Hospital in Yazoo City, Shivers said.

Fortunately, Mississippi has relatively few officer-involved shootings, at least when compared to other states. There are very strict rules regarding when the police may use deadly force against a suspect.

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees citizens “[t]he right…to be secure…in their persons…[and] against unreasonable…seizures.” The U.S. Supreme Court has held that the “unreasonable seizures” provision protects persons from the unreasonable use of deadly force. That makes perfect sense, considering killing a person is the ultimate seizure of a citizen.

General self-defense rules apply to when an officer may use deadly force. Deadly force is authorized when the officer reasonably believes that the suspect will cause death or serious bodily injury to the officer. This is the basic law of self-defense.

Police officers may also use deadly force when the officer reasonably believes that the suspect will cause death or serious bodily injury to another person. This principle is referred to as “defense of others.”

These rules seem pretty straightforward. However, they become muddled sometimes when applied to various encounters between the police and suspects. For example, can an officer use deadly force to prevent a fleeing suspect from escaping? In other words, if a suspect runs from the police, and is posing no clear and imminent danger to them, can the officers shoot him in the back? It depends.

There was a time when the police could shoot a suspect to prevent his escape. There were very few restrictions on the use of deadly force to capture a fleeing suspect. This changed in 1985, when the U.S. Supreme Court set rules for the use of deadly force to capture a fleeing suspect. In Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S. 1 (1985), the Court held:

The use of deadly force to prevent the escape of all felony suspects, whatever the circumstances, is constitutionally unreasonable. It is not better that all felony suspects die than that they escape. Where the suspect poses no immediate threat to the officer and no threat to others, the harm resulting from failing to apprehend him does not justify the use of deadly force to do so. It is no doubt unfortunate when a suspect who is in sight escapes, but the fact that the police arrive a little late or are a little slower afoot does not always justify killing the suspect. A police officer may not seize an unarmed, nondangerous suspect by shooting him dead.

Where the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a threat of serious physical harm, either to the officer or to others, it is not constitutionally unreasonable to prevent escape by using deadly force. Thus, if the suspect threatens the officer with a weapon or there is probable cause to believe that he has committed a crime involving the infliction or threatened infliction of serious physical harm, deadly force may be used if necessary to prevent escape, and if, where feasible, some warning has been given. 

The Garner case applied some general “self-defense/defense of others” principles to the question of shooting a suspect to prevent escape. If the police have probable cause to believe that the suspect, if allowed to escape, will cause death or serious bodily harm, then deadly force can be used. A major consideration is the crime the person is suspected of committing. The more serious/violent the crime, the more likely deadly force will be justified. Property crimes would rarely, if ever, justify the use of deadly force. 

Officers who violate these rules may find themselves in serious trouble. They may even be charged with crimes for using deadly force when it is not justified. If you have questions about self-defense or officer-involved shootings, please call me.

Mississippi Criminal Defense Attorney Curt Crowley

Jackson, Mississippi Criminal Defense Attorney Explores Running From A Crime Scene

If a person runs from a crime scene after a crime is committed, and is later charged with being the perpetrator, the jury may consider this “flight” as evidence that the person is guilty.  The Court will typically read the jury the following instruction:

Flight is a circumstance from which guilty knowledge and fear may be inferred. If you believe from the evidence in this case beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did flee or go into hiding, such flight or hiding may be considered in connection with all other evidence in the case. You may determine from all the facts, whether such flight or hiding was from a conscious sense of guilt or whether it was caused by other things and give it such weight as you think it is entitled to in determining the guilt or innocence of the defendant.

When the judge tells the jury it can consider this evidence in deciding whether the Defendant is guilty, the results can be devastating for the defense.  The Supreme Court has, however, placed a very important restriction on the use of “flight” evidence: it can only be used when the Defendant’s flight from the scene is unexplained.  If the Defendant has a plausible, alternative explanation for why he fled the scene, the evidence will not be admitted, and the instruction will not be read to the jury. 

The best example of an alternative explanation for flight is where the Defendant was acting in self-defense.  Consider the case of Banks v. State. 631 So.2d 748 (Miss. 1994).  Banks was an aggravated assault case, where the Defendant was an invited guest at a woman’s house.  According to Banks, while inside the house, the woman’s estranged husband came to the house and began arguing with the woman.  Banks stated that the estranged husband eventually pulled out a pistol, at which time Banks stabbed him in self-defense.  After being stabbed, the husband threatened to kill Banks.  Banks claimed that he then took off running from the scene because he feared that the husband would kill him.

Over the objection of Banks’ attorney, the trial judge gave the flight instruction quoted above. Banks was found guilty. He appealed his conviction to the Mississippi Supreme Court. Because Banks’ flight from the scene was “explained,” the Court held that evidence of flight should not have been admitted. In reversing the conviction, the Court stated:

The State argues that Banks’ “reason for flight following the aggravated assault of Dennis Thompson was unexplained, and is probative of his theory of necessary self defense.” The State concedes that Banks was threatened by Patrick Thompson following the stabbing, but contends that the flight was in progress when the threat was made. The State takes the position that only the victim can provide a reason for the flight. This argument is neither logical nor based on existing case law. Banks’ flight could be based on more than one reason. The State loses sight of the fact that Banks has never denied committing the act of stabbing the victim. Where the defendant is arguing self-defense, a flight instruction should be automatically ruled out and found to be of no probative value.

Common sense dictates that fear of the alleged victim is a legitimate, alternative explanation for running from a crime scene. In such cases, flight evidence is not admissible.  Whenever I have a case where my client fled the scene of the crime, I immediately explore whether there is a legitimate explanation why he fled. Fear of death or bodily harm by the alleged victim or others is the most common explanation, but there could be other reasons. Once I pinpoint an alternative explanation, I file a motion to exclude evidence of flight, and to prohibit the prosecutor from arguing to the jury that they should consider flight as evidence that my client is guilty.

If you are facing a similar situation, or have any criminal-related issues you wish to discuss, please contact me.