Jail attack nets inmate more months to serve

Published 6:00 am Friday, January 23, 2004

A Pearl man was sentenced to six months in jail Friday morningafter being convicted of simple assault Thursday in a July 2003attack on a fellow inmate in the Lincoln County Jail.

Samuel Downing, 33, of 1636 Highway 45 North, faced trialThursday on a felony aggravated assault charge. However, the juryopted to return a guilty verdict for misdemeanor simpleassault.

Downing was accused of hitting fellow inmate Byron Brown, 47, of144 Montgomery Road S.E., Summit, once on the left side of the headshortly before morning prayer services on July 23. The blow brokeBrown’s left eye socket, resulting in continued blurred vision andheadaches for the victim.

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“His fairly normal vision was transformed into something else,”Assistant District Attorney Diane Jones told jurors in the trial’sopening statements Thursday.

Downing’s attorney David Linzey, though, questioned how muchdamage one punch could do. In his opening, Linzey said the assaultwas a case of self-defense and there was reasonable grounds forDowning to believe his life was in danger during the incident.

“This is exactly what happened in this case,” Linzey said.

There was testimony Thursday that an argument between Brown andDowning may have been over Baptism or jail contraband. In herclosing statement to jurors, Jones said Brown did not have aweapon, and there was nothing to justify Downing’s self defenseclaim.

“Sam Downing had no right to counter mere words with physicalviolence,” Jones said.

Jurors deliberated about one hour in their decision Thursdayafternoon.

Jones had no comment on the verdict.

Linzey maintained the incident was self-defense. However, giventhe circumstances, the attorney said the verdict was a fairone.

“With that verdict, the sentence was to be expected,” Linzeysaid Friday after a brief sentencing hearing.

Neither Brown nor Downing spoke during the Friday hearing.

In pronouncing his sentence, Judge Keith Starrett said both menhad made bad choices in their lives, but it was clear that theywere not terrible people.

“Both of you have the potential for good,” Starrett said. “Itgives me hope for the both of you.”

At the time of the incident, Downing was in jail on a possessionof stolen property charge, and Brown was in jail on possession ofstolen property and drug charges.

Starrett said he was impressed with Downing’s apology to Brownafter the incident and that he had demonstrated a sincere changethrough his faith. The judge said it appeared that forgiveness hadbeen sought and received in the incident.

“There’s still consequences that have to be addressed,” Starrettsaid.

In addition to the jail term, Downing was ordered to pay a $500fine and over $7,000 in restitution to the county for medicalexpenses in the treatment of Brown’s injuries. Standard court costsand attorney fees were also assessed.