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State v. Hobson

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Southern District, First Division

October 6, 2016

STATE OF MISSOURI, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
JAMES CRAIG HOBSON, Defendant-Appellant.

         APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF CRAWFORD COUNTY Honorable Sidney T. Pearson III

          OPINION

          MARY W. SHEFFIELD, C.J.

         James Craig Hobson ("Defendant") appeals from his conviction for one count of second-degree assault of a law enforcement officer. Defendant claims (1) the trial court erred in overruling an objection he made during the State's closing argument and (2) the trial court plainly erred in failing to give a self-defense instruction. We disagree with his arguments and affirm the trial court's judgment.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         On November 6, 2013, Missouri Highway Patrol Trooper Jeffry Leathers ("Trooper Leathers") was on patrol when he heard Dent County dispatch call Dent County Deputy Sheriff Jordan Davis ("Deputy Davis") regarding a report of a suspicious person sitting on a homeowner's doorstep in a rural area. Both Trooper Leathers and Deputy Davis responded.

         Trooper Leathers approached Defendant, who was "kind of balled up with his head down, " and noted a strong odor of vodka. Defendant "appeared to be very intoxicated" and could not give his name to the officers. Trooper Leathers asked if Defendant was okay, and Defendant responded with "kind of a guttural sound."

         Trooper Leathers and Deputy Davis attempted to identify Defendant but could only learn Defendant's first name. The officers helped Defendant stand and walked him to Deputy Davis's car where he was seated in the back seat without incident. Defendant got out of the car so that paramedics could conduct a medical examination. After it was determined that Defendant did not need medical treatment but was intoxicated, Trooper Leathers decided to place Defendant in the sheriff's office on a twelve-hour civil detoxification hold.[1]

         Trooper Leathers then directed Defendant to sit back down in Deputy Davis's car. Defendant lifted up his head and swore at Trooper Leathers. Then Defendant "stiffened up" and grabbed the top of the car door. Trooper Leathers took his hand in a V-shape and pushed on Defendant's flank to get Defendant to bend over and sit in the car. Defendant turned and hit Trooper Leathers in the face with a closed fist.

         Defendant was charged with one count of second-degree assault of a law enforcement officer. Defendant had a trial on August 28, 2015, where the jury found Defendant guilty. The trial court sentenced Defendant to six years' imprisonment. This appeal follows.

         Discussion

         Point One: Closing Argument

         In his first point, Defendant argues the trial court abused its discretion in overruling his objection to the prosecutor's statement during closing argument that Defendant stiffened up after Trooper Leathers pushed him rather than before Trooper Leathers pushed him because that argument was a misstatement of Trooper Leathers's testimony. Defendant's point is without merit because Defendant failed to demonstrate prejudice.

         "The 'trial court has broad discretion in controlling the scope of closing argument, and the court's rulings will be cause for reversal only upon a showing of abuse of discretion resulting in prejudice to the defendant.'" State v. Tinsley, 143 S.W.3d 722, 734 (Mo. App. S.D. 2004) (quoting State v. Cunningham, 32 S.W.3d 217, 219 (Mo. App. S.D. 2000)). "A trial court abuses its discretion when its ruling is clearly against the logic of the circumstances before it and when the ruling is so arbitrary as to shock this Court's sense of justice and indicate a lack of careful consideration." State v. Overton, 261 S.W.3d 654, 663 (Mo. App. S.D. 2008). Prejudice exists where "there is a reasonable probability that, in the absence of the abuse, the verdict would have been different." State v. Barton, 936 S.W.2d 781, 786 (Mo. banc 1996).

         These additional facts relate to the disposition of this point. At trial, Trooper Leathers described the events ...


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