New trial ordered to give jury choice of crimes

JACKSON – David Brooks will get a new Oktibbeha County trial on aggravated assault charges, the Mississippi Supreme Court said Thursday.
On a 7-vote majority, the court reversed a Court of Appeals holding about the charge, affirmed a circuit court decision on a Brooks objection and agreed with the Court of Appeals that Brooks is entitled to a jury instruction on the lesser offense of reckless driving.
Brooks was sentenced to two consecutive 20-year prison terms in 2006 when he was convicted of aggravated assault from a wild 2003 chase to elude law enforcement officers.
His conviction initially was reversed by the Court of Appeals and sent back for a new trial.
On this issue, Chief Justice William Waller Jr. wrote that the COA was wrong, when it found an amended indictment to be enough to overturn the conviction.
The justices agreed with the COA’s decision for a new trial because Brooks was entitled to a jury instruction on the lesser charge of reckless driving. Trial Judge Jim Kitchens Jr. denied himthat instruction.
Under the state’s aggravated assault law, a person must cause or attempt to cause bodily injury to another, likely to result in death or serious injury.
The Supreme Court said Brooks was entitled to the jury instruction for reckless driving, a separate offense.
At trial Brooks said he did not intend to hit any law enforcement officers, and three officers testified that he did not hit anyone.
“To convict Brooks of aggravated assault based on an attempt to injure the officers with his vehicle, a deadly weapon, the state was required to prove that Brooks intended to injure them,” Waller wrote.
The jury should have been given a choice between the two crimes, he said.
Justice James Graves agreed in part and dissented in another, while Justice David Chandler did not participate.

Patsy R. Brumfied/NEMS Daily Journal