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Where a person reasonably believes that he is in danger of physical harm he may be excused for some conduct which ordinarily would be criminal.
Willie Knight was indicted and convicted for leaving the scene of an accident after he hit a child with his car. He was sentenced to a term of one (1) year in the custody of the Jones County Jail, and ordered to pay a fine of $ 1,000.00 and court costs. Knight challenged his conviction and argued that the trial court erroneously excluded evidence concerning the circumstances that led him to reasonably believe that he was in danger of physical harm, which precipitated his leaving the scene.
Could a fair-minded jury find that Knight was afraid, that fear motivated his action and that there were present circumstances which could induce that fear in a reasonable person in Knight's situation?
The court determined that the trial court erroneously excluded testimony as to a bystander's statements to Knight that motivated Knight’s fear because the statements were admissible under Miss. R. Evid. 803(1) as a present sense impression exception to the hearsay rule. The statement was offered to show the effect on Knight in that it induced or contributed to his fear. The court concluded that the trial court erred in sustaining the State's objections to Knight’s testimony concerning the statement, and thus failed to hear evidence that would have provided a sufficient basis for a jury instruction concerning Knight’s theory of defense.