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State v. Brown

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Southern District, Second Division

January 22, 2018

STATE OF MISSOURI, Appellant,
v.
JOSHUA J. BROWN, Respondent.

         APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF GREENE COUNTY Honorable Calvin R. Holden, Judge AFFIRMED

          DANIEL E. SCOTT, J.

         Following Deputy Matthew Chism's tragic death, jurors found Joshua Brown ("Defendant") guilty of four related felonies. The trial court accepted two of those verdicts and sentenced Defendant thereon, but entered a judgment of acquittal on felony murder (§ 565.021)[1] and its predicate offense of hindering prosecution (§ 575-030), ruling that the state had not made a submissible case on the latter.

         The state appeals, urging that it made a submissible case on hindering prosecution (Point I) and, thus, also felony murder (Point II). Having carefully considered the record and the hindering-prosecution statute, we cannot agree, and therefore must affirm the trial court's judgment.

         Background[2]

         Patrolling El Dorado Springs shortly after midnight, Deputy Chism met a vehicle with a headlight out. He got behind the vehicle, then activated his lights and siren. The vehicle sped off. Deputy Chism gave chase. The vehicle ran several stop signs at highway speed with the deputy in pursuit. After some 12 blocks, the vehicle slowed. A passenger in dark clothes with a backpack jumped out and ran. The vehicle sped off again as its driver tossed methamphetamine[3] out the window.

         Deputy Chism stopped his patrol car, got out, chased the passenger on foot, caught him, and tried to subdue him. The passenger broke free and ran a distance further before shots were exchanged, mortally wounding both men.

         The passenger, identified as William Collins, was a felon whose backpack contained a rubber mask, latex gloves, burglar tools, Ziploc baggies, and a digital scale that tested positive for methamphetamine residue. The gun with which he killed Deputy Chism also was recovered at the scene.

         Defendant, the driver, was later apprehended. As relevant here, he was tried on charges of hindering prosecution and, based thereon, felony murder. The state's hindering theory, as charged and instructed at trial, was that Defendant created a "diversion" to help Collins avoid apprehension by speeding off in a different direction than Collins was running. The jury found Defendant guilty of that offense and felony murder predicated thereon, after which the court granted judgment of acquittal on both charges as previously noted.[4]

         Point I - Hindering Prosecution

         On appeal, the parties focus on the hindering charge because Defendant had to be guilty of it to be guilty of felony murder.[5] We quote our statute, § 575.030, emphasizing the state's theory of guilt below and on appeal:

         A person commits the offense of hindering prosecution if, for the purpose of preventing the apprehension, prosecution, conviction or punishment of another person for conduct constituting an offense, he or she:

(1) Harbors or conceals such person; or
(2) Warns such person of impending discovery or apprehension, except this does not apply to a warning given in connection with an effort to bring another into compliance with the law; or
(3) Provides such person with money, transportation, weapon, disguise or other means to aid him in avoiding ...

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