Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Gumbs: Upholding Convictions for Forcibly Assault Federal Officers with a Vehicle

In United States v. Gumbs, No. 18-13182 (July 15, 2020) (Luck, William Pryor, Jill Pryor), the Court affirmed the defendant’s convictions for using a deadly weapon to forcibly assault a federal officer.

First, the Court found no abuse of discretion in refusing to give the defendant’s proposed jury instructions.  With regard to the term “forcibly,” the court’s instruction tracked the language of the federal assault statute, which had a generally understood meaning using basic grade-school grammar.  With regard to “use of a deadly weapon,” the defendant’s proposed instruction relating to a car as a deadly weapon was substantially covered by the court’s instruction, and the court was not required to separately define the word “use” because it has a common meaning.  With regard to the court’s failure to give an instruction on the lesser included offense of simple assault, the Court concluded that there was no way the jury could have found him guilty of assault without finding him guilty of forcible assault.

Second, the Court found no abuse of discretion in the district court’s response to the jury’s question relating to the use of a car as a deadly weapon.  The court repeated the relevant portion of its earlier instruction, which was a correct statement of the law.

Third, the Court found sufficient evidence to support one of his convictions.  The Court rejected the defendant’s argument that he did not direct force against officers next to his car, because he stepped on the gas pedal as officers were reaching inside the car to arrest him.