JAMES KWAME TOPPS A/K/A JAMES TOPPS A/K/A JAMES K. TOPPS APPELLANT
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
Sufficiency of the Evidence
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 ...