John Marc Downs v. State of Mississippi

The Facts

Defendant quarreled with his father and began beating him. The reason was a large sum of money defendant could not find in place. Eventually he stopped beating his father when the latter handed him $ 200 from his billfold. Defendant was convicted of robbery.

Procedural History

Defendant appealed conviction of robbery made by the Forrest County Circuit Court (Mississippi) found the defendant guilty of robbery. The case was judged on base of Miss. Code Ann. § 97-3-73 (Rev. 2002). The Supreme Court of Mississippi affirmed judgment of the initial trial court.


In order a person to be convicted of crime of robbery, the trial judge has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the criminal act must be committed feloniously against personal property of another. Yet it does not matter whether the act was carried our in presence of victim or from his person. Further, robbery must be committed against will of victim and by violence to his person or by putting such person in fear of some immediate injury to his person.  According to Miss. Code Ann. § 97-3-73 (Rev. 2006) robbery is a specific-intent crime, which requires the prosecution to prove that the defendant took the personal property of another with the intent to permanently deprive that person of their property.

The lesser-included crime must be integral part of the greater crime for which the accused is indicted. “It is clear that, in a factually appropriate case, simple assault is a lesser-included offense of robbery. The legislature has defined robbery as the felonious taking of the personal property of another in his presence or from his person and against his will, by violence to his person or by putting such person in fear of some immediate injury to his person, Miss. Code Ann. § 97-3-73 (Rev. 2002).”

The Issue

Questions presented on appeal were: (a) whether the evidence supported defendant’s conviction for robbery; (b) whether he was entitled to have the jury instructed on simple assault as a lesser-included offense.

The Holding/Reasoning

Defendant took the money as a quid pro quo to stop the beating. The investigation further revealed evidence that the father  handed over the money due to the threat of a continued beating. Defendant’s actions openly become an aggravated assault, and therefore, factual circumstances of the case did not justify the giving of a lesser-included offense instruction on simple assault. “In determining whether the facts support simple, versus aggravated assault, the focus is not exclusively on the harm done, but rather, on whether the elements of the statute are satisfied.”

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