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United States v. Staggs

decided: April 27, 1977.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
LONNIE PAUL STAGGS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Appeals from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, Southern Division. No. A-CR-76-8 - J. Waldo Ackerman, Judge.

Swygert, Sprecher and Tone, Circuit Judges. Sprecher, Circuit Judge, dissenting.

Author: Swygert

SWYGERT, Circuit Judge.

In this case the defendant appeals his conviction by a jury for assaulting a federal officer with a deadly weapon in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 111.*fn* We reverse the conviction and remand the case for a new trial.

I

Defendant Lonnie Paul Staggs was wanted by the United States Marine Corps for desertion. On May 25, 1976, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents James C. Haskell and James E. Quick came to arrest Staggs at his apartment in Edwardsville, Illinois. They were permitted to enter the apartment by Staggs' wife, who told them that Staggs was in the bedroom. According to agent Haskell, he called out to Staggs, and when he received no answer, partially entered the bedroom doorway. He alleged that he observed Staggs standing in the corner and that Staggs was holding a gun with both hands which he pointed at Haskell. Haskell further contended that he jumped back through the doorway in fear and that as he did so Staggs stated that "he wasn't going to go back, and don't come into the bedroom or I'll shoot you."

On the basis of Haskell's allegations, Staggs was indicted on July 15, 1976 for assaulting a federal officer with a deadly weapon in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 111. He was tried before a jury in the district court for the Southern District of Illinois. At trial his defense was based upon his own account of what had transpired on May 25, 1976. He testified that his wife told him after the agents arrived that they had come to take him away. This conversation took place in the doorway of the bedroom while the agents were waiting in the living room. He then testified that he went into the bedroom to pick up the gun, which was on the nightstand by the bed, and turned with the gun in his right hand when he saw a shadow come into the doorway. He stated that he did not point the gun at Haskell and never had any intention of pointing the gun at Haskell or threatening him. He asserted that he picked up the gun because he was thinking of injuring himself so that he would not be taken back to the Marine Corps.

Staggs was convicted by the jury and sentenced as a youth offender under 18 U.S.C. § 5010(b) to an indefinite term in the custody of the Attorney General. He now appeals his conviction.

II

Defendant argues that the district court committed reversible error by excluding the testimony of Dr. William Sloan, a psychologist who examined defendant. Dr. Sloan offered to testify that defendant was more likely to hurt himself than to direct his aggressions toward others. Dr. Sloan stated, speaking about defendant:

His impulsive acts are directed more inwardly than outwardly. He does - he does show some rashness but not aggression toward others in the test pattern particularly, and his desire to injure himself or to be injured in order to escape an unpleasant situation is consistent with his rather childish attitude which may be expressed as, if I'm hurt, they'll feel sorry for me and I won't have to do that. It's that kind of a character structure that he has, a personality trait. The tendency, the overwhelming or the burden of the - both the test results and my personal interview, my discussion with him would be in the direction of his not being aggressive or wanting to injure somebody else but rather to have himself to be so - to be put in a condition which would allow him to get out of an unpleasant situation.

The district court excluded this testimony because it did not

believe it's relevant to the question which really is the assault here. The defendant says he didn't do it. The agent says he did do it. Dr. Sloan says in effect that he's ...


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