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Thomas v. State

Supreme Court of Mississippi

January 17, 2019

LENNON THOMAS a/k/a LENNON LAMAR THOMAS
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 02/17/2017

          FORREST COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. ROBERT B. HELFRICH JUDGE

          TRIAL COURT ATTORNEYS: PATRICIA A. THOMAS BURCHELL DECARLO CHAS HOOD JAMES LEWIS LANE, JR. ANDRES FRANCISCO WALLACE LINDSAY ELIZABETH SLAWSON BENJAMIN DODD THORNTON

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF THE STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER BY: ERIN ELIZABETH BRIGGS

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: JEFFREY A. KLINGFUSS

          DISTRICT ATTORNEY: PATRICIA A. THOMAS BURCHELL

          BEFORE RANDOLPH, P.J., MAXWELL AND BEAM, JJ.

          MAXWELL, JUSTICE

         ¶1. Lennon Thomas entered a small Hattiesburg, Mississippi convenience store with a bandana covering his face and carrying a gun. Once inside, he ran behind the cashier's counter where the cashier-who had just returned from the bank-was stooped down handling thousands of dollars. The cashier's husband had seen Thomas enter the store and yelled to warn his wife. He also pulled out his own gun in defense. Thomas grabbed the cashier by her neck and stuck his pistol to her head. She pleaded for her life. When her husband ran from the store to seek help, Thomas shot him in the back, dropping him on the concrete parking lot. Thomas then stuck his pistol in the cashier's back and shot her too before fleeing the store.

         ¶2. Thomas was quickly captured by police officers in the nearby woods. He was arrested and later convicted of attempted armed robbery and two counts of aggravated assault. Thomas now appeals, claiming that because no money was taken from the store, the State failed to prove he had attempted to commit an armed robbery. We disagree.

         ¶3. A defendant's intent to commit a crime is a jury question and may be determined from the defendant's acts and conduct.[1] Inferences of guilt may also be deduced from the surrounding circumstances and facts.[2] Overwhelming evidence was presented from which a jury could reasonably infer the masked and armed Thomas had attempted to rob the store but was foiled by the cashier's armed husband. We thus affirm Thomas's armed-robbery conviction.

         Background Facts and Procedural History

         ¶4. Nga Tran and her husband Truc own Discount Tobacco and Beer in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Part of their business includes check cashing for store customers. On the morning of December 15, 2014, Nga had just returned to the store from depositing customer checks at the bank. She was placing a bank bag and $80, 000 in cash under the counter when Thomas entered the store and ran behind the counter. Thomas was wearing dark clothing, gloves, and had a bandana covering his face. He was also carrying a pistol in his hand. Truc was at the opposite end of the store stocking a beer cooler. Truc saw Thomas and yelled to Nga that someone was in the store with a gun. Truc pulled out his own pistol in defense.

         ¶5. When Nga stood up from handling the money, Thomas was behind the counter, face to face with her. He grabbed her neck and put his pistol to her head. Thomas yelled for Truc to "put the f---ing gun down" or he would "kill" Nga. As Thomas continued choking Nga, she begged him not to kill her and offered Thomas the store's money tray. At this point, Truc ran from store towards the nearby police department to seek help. Thomas followed, forcing Nga towards the door, while beating her in the head with his pistol. He then opened the store's front door ...


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