Schmidt
v.
State

Court of Appeals of Texas, Tenth District, WacoJun 18, 2008
No. 10-07-00003-CR (Tex. App. Jun. 18, 2008)

No. 10-07-00003-CR

Opinion delivered and filed June 18, 2008. DO NOT PUBLISH.

Appeal from the 87th District Court Freestone County, Texas, Trial Court No. 06-066-CR. Affirmed.

Before Chief Justice GRAY, Justice VANCE, and Justice REYNA. (Chief Justice Gray concurs in the judgment affirming the conviction. He does not join the Court's opinion. A separate opinion will not issue.).


MEMORANDUM OPINION


A jury convicted Robert Schmidt, Jr. of aggravated assault of a public servant and found that he had used a deadly weapon, a knife, in the commission of the offense. The jury found enhancement allegations true and assessed Schmidt's punishment at twenty-five years' imprisonment. Schmidt contends in two issues that the evidence is legally and factually insufficient to prove that he threatened the complainant with imminent bodily injury or that the knife was a deadly weapon. We will affirm.

Background

The indictment alleges in pertinent part that Schmidt "threaten[ed] Josh Vercher with imminent bodily injury by charging at the said Josh Vercher with a knife, and did then and there use or exhibit a deadly weapon, to-wit: a knife, during the commission of said assault." Officer Vercher testified that he and several other officers responded to a domestic disturbance call at the home of Schmidt's parents on the afternoon in question. When they arrived, Schmidt had already left on foot. Vercher found him not too far away leaning against a dumpster. After they made eye contact, Vercher noticed Schmidt "reach in his back pocket and make a furtive move like he — like he was popping open a knife." Vercher radioed this information to the other officers and pulled over to make contact with Schmidt. Schmidt started walking in Vercher's direction. As Vercher got out of the car, Schmidt came around the corner of a building about "[t]wenty, 21 foot" away. He was holding a Maglite flashlight in his right hand "like he was going to use it as a club," and his left hand was behind his back. Vercher ordered Schmidt to get on the ground, but he continued walking toward the officer. Vercher repeated the command, but Schmidt continued walking. Vercher repeated the command a third time and drew his service weapon. Other officers had joined Vercher by this time and were shouting similar commands. Schmidt displayed a knife, pointed it in Vercher's direction, said "[l]et's get this shit over," and charged the officer. As Vercher was about to shoot Schmidt, another officer to one side fired a Taser at Schmidt but hit him with only one of the two prongs necessary to create the electrical impulse which disables the intended target. Schmidt was about ten feet away from Vercher at this point. After the ineffective Taser shot, Schmidt turned and fled. Vercher testified that he thought Schmidt was going to hurt him. He felt "very threatened" and was "scared for [his] life." He stated that he considered the knife to be a deadly weapon and that it was capable of causing death or serious bodily injury. He perceived the flashlight as a threat and testified that it too could have caused bodily injury. Based on Schmidt's actions, he believed bodily injury to himself was imminent. Officer Kenneth Russell likewise testified that he considered the knife a deadly weapon and that it was capable of causing death or serious bodily injury. Russell perceived Schmidt as a threat and felt that Schmidt could have injured him. Russell too drew his service weapon. When the prosecutor asked if Russell had his finger on the trigger, he answered that he did not:
`Cause once — once you trigger that gun, you know, it's going to go off, and then — then that's that — that many seconds went by, and the distance that I had between him and me, that threat wasn't as . . . you know what I mean?

Applicable Law

In reviewing a claim of legal insufficiency, we view all of the evidence in a light most favorable to the verdict and determine whether any rational trier of fact could have found the essential element beyond a reasonable doubt. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319, 99 S. Ct. 2781, 2789, 61 L. Ed. 2d 560 (1979); Sells v. State, 121 S.W.3d 748, 753-54 (Tex.Crim.App. 2003); Witt v. State, 237 S.W.3d 394, 396-97 (Tex.App.-Waco 2007, pet. ref'd). In a factual insufficiency review, we ask whether a neutral review of all the evidence, though legally sufficient, demonstrates either that the proof of guilt is so weak or that conflicting evidence is so strong as to render the factfinder's verdict clearly wrong and manifestly unjust. Watson v. State, 204 S.W.3d 404, 414-15 (Tex.Crim.App. 2006); Witt, 237 S.W.3d at 397. Schmidt was indicted for violation of sections 22.01(a)(2) and 22.02(a)(2) and (b)(2)(B) of the Penal Code. Section 22.01(a)(2) provides in pertinent part that a person commits an assault if he "intentionally or knowingly threatens another with imminent bodily injury." TEX. PEN. CODE ANN. § 22.01(a)(2) (Vernon Supp. 2007). Section 22.02(a)(2) elevates simple assault to an aggravated offense when the person "uses or exhibits a deadly weapon during the commission of the assault." Id. § 22.02(a)(2) (Vernon Supp. 2007). And section 22.02(b)(2)(B) elevates the offense to a first degree felony when the assault is committed against a public servant lawfully discharging an official duty. Id. § 22.02(b)(2)(B) (Vernon Supp. 2007). We will begin with the deadly weapon component of Schmidt's appellate complaints.

Deadly Weapon

A deadly weapon is defined by statute as "(A) a firearm or anything manifestly designed, made, or adapted for the purpose of inflicting death or serious bodily injury; or (B) anything that in the manner of its use or intended use is capable of causing death or serious bodily injury." Id. § 1.07(a)(17) (Vernon Supp. 2007). Knives are not generally considered deadly weapons by design under subsection (A), and neither party contends that the knife in the present case would qualify as a deadly weapon under this definition. See Robertson v. State, 163 S.W.3d 730, 732 (Tex.Crim.App. 2005); Nickerson v. State, 69 S.W.3d 661, 670 (Tex.App.-Waco 2002, pet. ref'd). Therefore, the issue is whether there is legally and factually sufficient evidence to find that the knife in the manner of its use was capable of causing death or serious bodily injury. See TEX. PEN. CODE ANN. § 1.07(a)(17)(B); Nickerson, 69 S.W.3d at 670. Courts have employed several factors when considering whether a knife is a deadly weapon under this definition, including: (1) the size, shape, and sharpness of the knife; (2) the manner in which the appellant used the weapon; (3) the nature or existence of inflicted wounds; (4) testimony of the knife's life-threatening capabilities; (5) the physical proximity between the victim and the knife; and (6) the words spoken by the appellant. See Thomas v. State, 821 S.W.2d 616, 619 (Tex.Crim.App. 1991); Lowe v. State, 211 S.W.3d 821, 828 (Tex.App.-Texarkana 2006, pet. ref'd); Nickerson, 69 S.W.3d at 670. "No one factor is determinative, and the fact finder must examine each case on all of its facts to determine whether the knife is a deadly weapon." Tucker v. State, 221 S.W.3d 780, 784 (Tex.App.-Corpus Christi 2007, pet. granted) (citing Garcia v. State, 17 S.W.3d 1, 4 (Tex.App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 1999, pet. ref'd)). Schmidt acknowledges in his brief that "[n]o one factor is determinative" but later states "the distance between Mr. Schmidt and Officer Vercher is the critical evidentiary factor." According to Schmidt, "[A]t ten feet, it seems improbable, if not impossible, that Mr. Schmidt used the knife in a `deadly' fashion." The knife was admitted in evidence for the jury to see, and we have ourselves examined the knife to ascertain its size, shape, and sharpness because the State did not admit in evidence a photograph of the knife or any testimony describing the physical characteristics of the knife. See TEX. R. APP. P. 34.6(g)(2); Robertson, 163 S.W.3d at 734. The knife is a folding knife with a non-serrated blade approximately three inches long. The knife has a liner lock to hold the blade in place when open. One-half of the handle on one side of the knife is broken off. Concerning the other factors, the evidence, when viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict, is that: (1) Schmidt was brandishing the knife in a threatening manner while simultaneously wielding the flashlight like a club; (2) Vercher and Russell both testified that the knife was capable of causing death or serious bodily injury; (3) Schmidt was charging toward Vercher in a threatening manner; and (4) Schmidt threatened Vercher when he said, "Let's get this shit over." We hold that this evidence is legally sufficient to prove that Schmidt's knife was a deadly weapon. See Billey v. State, 895 S.W.2d 417, 422 (Tex.App.-Amarillo 1995, pet. ref'd) (evidence sufficient if knife is "displayed in a manner conveying an express or implied threat that serious bodily injury or death will be inflicted if the desire of the person displaying the knife is not satisfied"); Jones v. State, 843 S.W.2d 92, 96-97 (Tex.App.-Dallas 1992, pet. ref'd) (same); accord In re D.L., 160 S.W.3d 155, 166-67 (Tex.App.-Tyler 2005, no pet.). With regard to the factual sufficiency of the evidence, Schmidt focuses on discrepancies between Vercher's testimony and his offense report regarding the relevant events, the distance between Schmidt and Vercher, and the differing reasonable inferences which could be drawn from Schmidt's words and actions. However, these issues all go to weight and credibility determinations, and we must defer to the jury in these matters. Johnson v. State, 23 S.W.3d 1, 7 (Tex.Crim.App. 2000); Gibson v. State, 233 S.W.3d 447, 452 (Tex.App.-Waco 2007, no pet.). From a neutral review of all the evidence, we cannot say that the evidence supporting the deadly-weapon finding is so weak or that the conflicting evidence is so strong as to render the jury's verdict clearly wrong and manifestly unjust. See Watson, 204 S.W.3d at 414-15; Witt, 237 S.W.3d at 397. Accordingly, we hold that the evidence is factually sufficient to prove that Schmidt's knife was a deadly weapon.

Imminent Threat

Schmidt also challenges the legal and factual sufficiency of the evidence to support the jury's finding that he threatened Schmidt with imminent bodily injury. See TEX. PEN. CODE ANN. § 22.01(a)(2). Schmidt views Officer Russell's testimony as evidence that "the threat was not imminent" in addition to focusing on the distance between Schmidt and Vercher. The Court of Criminal Appeals has defined "threaten" in part as meaning "a menacing indication of (something dangerous, evil, etc.); as the clouds threaten rain or a storm." Olivas v. State, 203 S.W.3d 341, 345 (Tex.Crim.App. 2006) (quoting WEBSTER'S NEW TWENTIETH CENTURY DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE UNABRIDGED 1901 (2d ed.1983)). A person commits the requisite threatening conduct "not only when the actor actually causes fear in another, but also (1) when he creates an unacceptable risk that another may be placed in fear, and (2) when he increases the likelihood that he will carry through on a threat and cause a physical injury." Id. at 347. The Court has defined the term "imminent" as meaning "near at hand; mediate rather than immediate; close rather than touching; impending; on the point of happening; threatening; menacing; perilous." Devine v. State, 786 S.W.2d 268, 270 (Tex.Crim.App. 1989) (quoting BLACK'S LAW DICTIONARY 676 (rev. 5th ed. 1979)); Robertson v. State, 175 S.W.3d 359, 362 (Tex.App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 2004, pet. ref'd); In re S.B., 117 S.W.3d 443, 450 (Tex.App.-Fort Worth 2003, no pet.). The term refers to a present threat of bodily injury rather than a future threat. Devine, 786 S.W.2d at 270; Robertson, 175 S.W.3d at 362. Here, viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict, the evidence is that Schmidt charged at Vercher brandishing a knife and a flashlight in a threatening manner. This constitutes legally sufficient evidence to prove that Schmidt threatened Vercher with imminent bodily injury. See Adams v. State, 222 S.W.3d 37, 51 (Tex.App.-Austin 2005, pet. ref'd); Tidwell v. State, 187 S.W.3d 771, 775 (Tex.App.-Texarkana 2006, pet. struck); Robertson, 175 S.W.3d at 363. Regarding the factual sufficiency of the evidence, Schmidt's focus on Russell's testimony is misguided. Russell testified that he did not put his finger on the trigger of his service weapon because he did not perceive Schmidt to pose a threat of imminent harm to Russell. He did not testify about whether Schmidt posed a threat to Vercher, other than to say that the knife was capable of causing death or serious bodily injury. The remainder of Schmidt's factual sufficiency complaint again focuses on issues of weight and credibility, and we must defer to the jury in these matters. See Johnson, 23 S.W.3d at 7; Gibson, 233 S.W.3d at 452. From a neutral review of all the evidence, we cannot say that the evidence supporting the verdict is so weak or that the conflicting evidence is so strong as to render the jury's verdict clearly wrong and manifestly unjust. See Watson, 204 S.W.3d at 414-15; Witt, 237 S.W.3d at 397. Accordingly, we hold that the evidence is factually sufficient to prove that Schmidt threatened Vercher with imminent bodily injury. See Adams, 222 S.W.3d at 51; Tidwell, 187 S.W.3d at 776; Robertson, 175 S.W.3d at 363-64. We overrule Schmidt's issues and affirm the judgment.