Law School Case Brief
Taylor v. State - 246 So. 3d 936 (Miss. App. 2018)
When a convicted felon takes a possession of a firearm out of necessity, he is required to act immediately to relieve himself of it once the need has passed. But the necessity does not end until the defendant has an adequate alternative to possession of the gun, which means that the defendant may delay when it is necessary to transfer the weapon safely.
Appellant Martez Taylor was tried for robbery and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon following an altercation with his girlfriend's aunt, Danielle Brent. Brent claimed Taylor had attacked her suddenly and taken her phone, credit cards, and pistol. Taylor testified he took the gun after she threatened him with it and then immediately brought the pistol and the other items (which he had taken by mistake in his haste to leave) to his mother so she could return them. The circuit court refused to instruct the jury on Taylor's asserted defense of necessity after finding that Taylor had not established that he got rid of the gun at the first opportunity. The jury acquitted Taylor of robbery but convicted him of possessing a firearm after being convicted of a felony. Taylor appealed.
Did the trial court err in refusing to instruct the jury on criminal defendant Taylor's necessity defense?
The Court of Appeals held that the circuit court erred in refusing to instruct the jury on Taylor's necessity defense. The Court explained that this was not a case where refusing to submit the defense could be harmless error. The Court agreed with the circuit court that when a convicted felon takes a possession of a firearm out of necessity, he is required to act immediately to relieve himself of it once the need has passed. But that necessity does not end until the defendant has an adequate alternative to possession of the gun, which means that the defendant may delay when it is necessary to transfer the weapon safely. The Court concluded that a reasonable juror who believed Taylor's testimony could have found the necessity defense meritorious. A jury has the prerogative to accept or reject, in whole or part, the testimony of any witness; thus, in this case, a reasonable juror could find that the exigencies of the situation outweighed the harm in Taylor's 20-minute possession of the firearm. The jury therefore should have been instructed on Taylor's theory of the case, and because it was not, the Court reversed the conviction and remanded for a new trial.
As for the standard of review, the Court explained that the grant or denial of a jury instruction is reviewed for a limited abuse of discretion. The trial court should give such an instruction unless it incorrectly states the law, is covered fairly elsewhere in the instructions, or is without foundation in the evidence. And when serious doubt exists as to whether an instruction should be included, the doubt should be resolved in favor of the accused.
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