LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - After deliberating for four and a half hours Tuesday, the jury for the Diboll man accused of driving at high speeds with his ex-wife on top of the car found him not guilty of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
Day four of the trial against Arthur Brown, 36, began Tuesday morning in Judge Paul White's 159th Judicial District Court at the Angelina County Courthouse with the discussion of a new plea of self-defense.
Arthur Brown, 36, is charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for the November 16, 2011 incident. Defense attorney Eugene Newsom has requested that self-defense now play a factor in this case due to Monday's testimony from the victim, Candice Batiste Brown.
"I feared for my life. She said she was going to cut my throat. She threw a knife at my child and cut me on the arm. This has been going on for now two years and I endured it. I don't know how things are going to happen from here. I've had two seizures, and that's about it," Brown said.
Newsom said since the day he met Brown he had said he wanted a trial because he said he was not guilty of the crime he was accused of.
"As Martin Luther King Jr. said 'the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.' Justice was served for Mr. Brown and we're happy about the verdict," Newsom said.
But after nearly an hour of informal arguments about Newsom's new self-defense plea for his client, White decided to reject the plea but said he did so with "great reservation."
On Monday, Batiste Brown said she and her ex-husband, Arthur Brown, had been having marital problems since September of that year. She said Brown had left her stranded at the Attorney General's office in Houston on November 14, 2011 while she was withdraw child support papers. She said he took off with their one-year-old son, Brandon, and she was unsure when she would see her son again.
When she returned to her Diboll residence two days later to collect some belongings, she said they got into a physical fight. She said she grabbed Brown and he then pushed her to the ground and into a brick wall.
Batiste Brown did admit on Monday that she was the physical aggressor in the incident, but she did it because she wanted to see her son. She testified that when she realized her son was in the backseat of her ex-husband's car, she jumped onto the back to stop him from taking their son again. That's when she said Brown sped off at high speeds down Morris Road with her on the back of the vehicle.
Batiste Brown said her body was moving left to right on the back of the car and that she was "terrified," telling prosecuting attorney Katrina Carswell that all she could do was hold on tight. However, prior testimony from several witnesses revealed that Brown was not swerving and only did so when Batiste Brown's father, Camille Howard Batiste, tried to run his car off the road.
Brown has refused to testify in this case. During the argument on whether or not to include a self-defense plea, White said in most cases the defendant has to testify in order to plead self-defense, however, there have been some instances where a defendant has not testified in a self-defense plea.
Carswell said she has seen several cases where the defendant did not testify in a self-defense plea, but she said in this case, Brown needs to admit that he is guilty of the crime before he can say that he was justified in his actions.
White said that in the 911 call, it is apparent that Brown admits to the aggravated assault of driving with his wife on top of the car. However, Carswell said that Brown has denied that he was driving at high speeds, and until he admits that he drove those speeds, he cannot be justified for self-defense. She said he absolutely has to admit to all elements of the incident in order for her to be OK with the new plea.
Newsom said Brown has already admitted that he drove with Batiste Brown on top of the car and said because of this he can plea self-defense.
During Monday's cross-examination, Newsom said that Brown had stated that he was scared for his life. In the 911 call, it was apparent that Brown was distraught about his ex-wife being on top of the car, and at one point it sounded as if he started crying as he told the dispatcher "I'm scared."
Batiste Brown also admitted that their behavior got out of hand, and she thinks they were both just trying to get to their son. She said they were trying to work out a custody agreement.
Carswell said that Brown tried to cause harm to Batiste Brown because he used his car as a deadly weapon.
"I just don't think we're in a position that he has given the jury evidence…that 'hey, I didn't drive off to hurt her,'" Carswell said. "There's not an admission."
She said she has several case files where defendants denied the conduct and were not allowed to plea self-defense.