Rehabilitating a prospective juror at voire dire.

Johnson v. State (Unpublished Memo): Robbery conviction affirmed.  Prospective juror’s brother worked at the store that was robbed (a Brookshire Bros. grocery store in Lufkin), but the brother was not involved in the Johnson incident.  The record was silent on whether the prospective juror was personally acquainted with his brother’s co-workers.  The prospective juror at first indicated that he’d definitely favor his brother if his brother testified (he didn’t) and might favor his brother’s co-workers.  Then the prospective juror backed off, saying: “No, I don’t think I would.  I’d try not to.”  The trial court refused to disqualify this prospective juror, and he was seated.  Given the prospective juror’s ambivalent answers, the Tyler court defers to the trial court’s discretion to judge the prospective juror’s demeanor and tone of voice.

Johnson had stolen a sausage.  He hid it in his pants.  I know, I know, some of you are wondering why I didn’t have a witticism about this in the title.  Well, Justice Bass took the high road, and so will I.  Here’s why: this was not a joke.

Store personnel confronted Johnson in the parking lot.  Johnson stopped, answered their questions, and gave back the sausage.  When asked if he had anything else, Johnson answered: “I got a .38.”  The store manager sent everyone else back inside to call the police.  Johnson stayed around.  When the police came, they didn’t find a weapon on Johnson.  They did, however, find a crack pipe.

On appeal, Johnson says that there was no reason to turn this petty theft into a robbery charge.  Johnson says that, since he didn’t really have a gun,  the store personnel had no real reason to fear him.  Justice Bass disagreed.  In an eloquent turn of phrase, he stated: “An escaping thief’s announcement that he has a pistol is enough to inspire fear in the boldest citizen.”

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