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Wrongful intent must be shown with regard to the possession and custody elements of the crime of being a felon in possession of a firearm. A person who commits a prohibited act "through misfortune or by accident, when it appears that there was no evil design, intention or culpable negligence has not committed a crime. Thus, a felon who acquires possession of a firearm through misfortune or accident, but who has no intent to exercise control or to have custody, commits the prohibited act without the required wrongful intent.
Defendant Bronico D. Jeffers entered a gun store and handed the gunsmith a package. The gunsmith opened the package and found a handgun. Defendant gave the gunsmith his name and address. The gunsmith noticed that the gun's serial numbers were rubbed off, so he contacted authorities. Defendant was subsequently charged and convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm. On appeal, the defendant contended that the trial court erred because it failed to properly instruct the jury on his theory of defense, namely that he did not know what was in the package until he arrived at the store.
Did the trial court err in failing to properly instruct the jury on the defendant’s theory of defense, thereby necessitating the reversal of the defendant’s conviction?
The court reversed defendant's conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm. The court found that the trial court failed to adequately instruct the jury on defendant's theory of defense. The court found that based on the instructions given, the jury improperly believed that it only had to decide whether defendant knew there was a gun in the package, even if such knowledge was obtained at the gun store. The court concluded that the jury also had to decide whether defendant intentionally exercised control over the gun.