Texas Court Okays Jury Instruction on Assault with a Deadly Weapon Where Defendant Only Used His Hands During the Assault

In Texas criminal courts, the state must advise the jury of the charges a defendant faces and the elements of any charge. If the charges submitted to the jury are improper, it can result in an unjust conviction or inappropriate sentence. In Walker v. Texas, the Court of Appeals of Texas held that instructing a jury on the issue of assault with a deadly weapon in a case where the defendant only used his hands during the assault was not an error, because hands could be used as deadly weapons. If you face assault charges, it is important to obtain an experienced Texas criminal defense attorney to thoroughly explain all the charges and help you prepare a strong defense.

Facts of the Case

Reportedly, the defendant and his alleged victim lived together for three years. They began arguing, after which the defendant allegedly grabbed the victim, threw her across the room, and placed his arm across her neck. The defendant only used his hands during the assault. The victim later testified that she wanted the defendant to stop hurting her but she was not fearful that he was going to kill her. The day after the assault, the victim met with police and sought treatment for her injuries. The police investigated the incident and ultimately charged the defendant with third-degree felony assault family violence. During the trial, the investigating officer testified that hands could be used as deadly weapons.

Allegedly, at the end of the trial, the jury was provided with instructions that included an issue regarding the defendant’s use of a deadly weapon. During deliberations, the jury stated it reached a unanimous decision on the assault charge but not on the deadly weapon issue. The state ultimately waived the deadly weapon issue and the jury convicted the defendant on the assault charge. The defendant appealed. On appeal, his conviction was affirmed.

Ruling of the Court of Appeals of Texas

On appeal, the defendant argued that the state erred in submitting the issue of a deadly weapon to the jury, because the jury could not reasonably find that he committed an assault causing bodily injury and that he used a deadly weapon in committing the assault. The defendant further argued the state did not present any evidence that he used his hands in a manner that would cause death, and the issue was improperly submitted to the jury to incite the jury’s emotions, in violation of the Texas Rules of Criminal Procedure.

Regarding the defendant’s first argument, the court stated that, in theory, all felonies could support a finding of the use of a deadly weapon, which is defined as anything capable of causing death. The court explained that the statute defining deadly weapons is very broad and almost anything can be considered a deadly weapon. The court also noted that the Texas courts had specifically recognized hands as deadly weapons. Therefore, the court found that contrary to the defendant’s argument, a jury could find a defendant guilty of felony assault with a deadly weapon.

As to the defendant’s argument that the state failed to present evidence that he used his hands in a manner that could cause death, the court noted that a jury must evaluate the victim’s injuries, the physical closeness of the victim and assailant, the threats used by the assailant and the assailant’s ability to cause death or serious injury in determining whether a defendant used a deadly weapon. In the subject case, the court found that the state submitted substantial evidence in support of the finding the defendant used his hands as a deadly weapon, including verbal threats made to the victim and the victim’s injuries sustained in the assault. Lastly, the court found there was no evidence to support the argument that the deadly weapons instruction was provided to the jury to incite the jury to convict the defendant. As such, the defendant’s conviction was affirmed.

Meet with a Skilled Texas Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are charged with a crime it is in your best interest to retain a skilled criminal defense attorney to assist you in formulating a defense. Rick Davis is an experienced Texas criminal defense attorney who will work diligently on your behalf to help you obtain a favorable result. Contact his team at (979) 779-4357 or via the online form to set up a consultation.

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