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Reddix v. State

January 14, 1999

TERRY LEE REDDIX
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI



Before Sullivan, P.j., Mills And Waller, JJ.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sullivan, Presiding Justice

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 07/26/96

TRIAL JUDGE: HON. JAMES W. BACKSTROM

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: JACKSON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT

NATURE OF THE CASE: CRIMINAL - FELONY

DISPOSITION: REVERSED AND REMANDED - 01/14/99

¶1. Terry Lee Reddix was indicted in the Circuit Court of Jackson County on a charge of committing an aggravated assault on Kevin Bickham in Jackson County on August 23, 1994. A jury found Reddix guilty of aggravated assault on July 23, 1996; and the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Honorable James W. Backstrom, Circuit Court Judge, presiding, sentenced Reddix to a term of four years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections on July 26, 1996. A motion for new trial was denied. Reddix assigns three errors on this appeal.

¶2. All three issues before this Court challenge the sufficiency of the instructions of law given in this case. First, Reddix complains the jury was not instructed as to the elements of the crime of aggravated assault. Reddix also complains the jury was not instructed as to the lesser included offense of simple assault. Finally, Reddix claims the jury was not instructed it was duty bound to acquit him if it believed he acted in self defense.

LEGAL ANALYSIS

1. WHETHER THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN FAILING TO INSTRUCT THE JURY REGARDING THE ELEMENTS OF THE CRIME OF AGGRAVATED ASSAULT?

¶3. The State admits there is merit to Reddix's first assignment of error and confesses the judgment of the circuit court should be reversed and this case remanded for a new trial. We agree and find it is "fundamental error" to fail to instruct the jury of the essential elements of a crime. See Screws v. United States, 325 U.S. 91, 107 (1945). ¶4. Because it is the State's duty to prove every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt, the State also has a duty to make sure the jury is properly instructed with regard to the essential elements of the crime. Hunter v. State, 684 So. 2d 625, 635 (Miss. 1996). "It is rudimentary that the jury must be instructed regarding the elements of the crime with which the defendant is charged." Hunter, 684 So. 2d at 636. See Henderson v. State, 660 So. 2d 220, 222 (Miss.1995); Neal v. State, 451 So. 2d 743, 757 (Miss.), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 1098 (1984). ¶5. The State offered jury instruction S-1 as its elements instruction and it was granted by the lower court. Jury instruction S-1 reads as follows:

The Court instructs the Jury that if you believe from the evidence in this case beyond a reasonable doubt that on or about August 23, 1994, in Jackson County, Mississippi, the defendant committed an aggravated assault in and upon the body of Kevin Bickham with a certain deadly weapon, to wit: a shotgun, without provocation, or without threat of great bodily harm to himself, then it will be your sworn duty to find the defendant guilty as charged.

If the State has failed to meet its burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt then you shall find the defendant not guilty.

¶6. According to Miss Code Ann. § 97-3-7(2)(b) (Supp. 1998), the elements of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon consist of (1) attempting to cause or purposely or knowingly causing bodily injury; (2) to another; (3) with a deadly ...


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