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Topps v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

September 26, 2017

JAMES KWAME TOPPS A/K/A JAMES TOPPS A/K/A JAMES K. TOPPS APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

         DATE OF JUDGMENT: 10/13/2016

         MONTGOMERY COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. JOSEPH H. LOPER JR. TRIAL JUDGE

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER BY: GEORGE T. HOLMES.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: ALICIA MARIE AINSWORTH.

         En Banc.

          FAIR, J.

         ¶1. James Topps was convicted of felony fleeing a law enforcement officer and aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer. He was sentenced to serve concurrent life sentences on each count as a habitual offender. Topps appeals, claiming that there was insufficient evidence to sustain each verdict and that each verdict was against the overwhelming weight of the evidence. Finding no error, we affirm.

         FACTS

         ¶2. On August 16, 2015, Officer Devarius Smith from the Winona Police Department responded to a domestic-disturbance call from Topps. When Officer Smith arrived, he first talked to Topps's wife, Gloria. Topps talked over Gloria as she was trying to tell Officer Smith her account of what happened. According to Officer Smith, he asked Topps to quiet down and Topps responded, "F*** you and the Winona Police Department. If y'all put your hands on me, I'm going to kill y'all."

         ¶3. Officer Smith determined there was a domestic disturbance, so he called Lieutenant Dan Herrod for backup. Topps left and walked down the street. When Lieutenant Herrod arrived, he and Officer Smith proceeded to get in their vehicles to find Topps. They saw Topps get into his tan Ford Expedition, put the car in reverse, turn the car around, and speed away. Both officers testified that Topps drove the car directly through an area where over twenty kids were playing basketball. At trial, Topps denied that there were any kids around.

         ¶4. Topps sped past the officers and ran a stop sign. At that point, Officer Smith got into his patrol car, activated his blue lights and sirens, and pursued Topps. During the pursuit, Officer Smith saw Topps run several more stop signs. He followed closely behind Topps, reaching speeds of almost eighty miles per hour. As they reached construction on a bridge, Topps drove through a fence and into a pasture. Topps's car eventually came to a stop, and Officer Smith exited the patrol car with his weapon drawn. Smith testified that, as he approached Topps, Topps put his vehicle in reverse and backed up within about five feet of him. He also testified that he had to jump to the left to avoid getting hit. Officer Smith fired three rounds at Topps's back tire in an attempt to disable the vehicle. His attempt was unsuccessful, and Topps drove away. When they crossed the county line, Lieutenant Herrod ordered Smith to terminate the pursuit, since he was alone and unfamiliar with the area.

         DISCUSSION

         1. Sufficiency of the Evidence

         ¶5. When reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence, "the relevant question is whether, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt." Bush v. State, 895 So.2d 836, 843 (¶16) (Miss. 2005). Where the facts and inferences "point in favor of the defendant on any element of the offense with sufficient force that reasonable [jurors] could not have found beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was guilty, " the proper remedy is to reverse and render. Id. However, if "reasonable fair-minded [jurors] in the exercise ...


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