Court of Appeals to decide whether a beer mug is a deadly weapon | News
News
INDY Week's news blog

Archives | RSS

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Court of Appeals to decide whether a beer mug is a deadly weapon

Posted by on Tue, Mar 3, 2015 at 8:00 AM

Bar fighters, take note: Is a beer mug a deadly weapon?

That question will be put before the N.C. Court of Appeals this week, in a case stemming from a bar fight in Lincolntown, northwest of Charlotte.

One side says that a beer mug is not by its nature a deadly weapon.

The other side says that if a beer mug is swung with enough force, it is a deadly weapon legally akin to a gun or knife.

The distinction weighs in the fate of Michael Thomas, a Lincoln County resident who in 2012 got into a bar fight that resulted in his  swinging his 12-ounce beer mug at another patron. The blow shattered the patron's face, requiring surgery with titanium plates and screws. 

After a 2013 trial, Thomas was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon-inflicting serious bodily injury, which is a felony. He was given three years of probation. During the trial, the judge declined to rule on whether a beer mug was a deadly weapon, leaving it up to the jury to decide. The jury's options were either to convict Thomas on the deadly-weapon charge, or to acquit him altogether. 

Now, Thomas' lawyer contends that the trial judge should have given the jury the option to convict Thomas of misdemeanor assault-inflicting serious injury. If convicted of that lesser charge, Thomas would have avoided the felony on his criminal record. Thomas wants a new trial.

The State's lawyer counters that a common item like a beer mug may be considered a deadly weapon based on the manner of its use. A beer mug, in other words, could become deadly if used with "great and furious violence" ... "with the potential to do great bodily harm," the lawyer argued in his brief. Other examples are bricks, cars, baseball bats, nail clippers and broom handles.

The victim in the case, Bryan Wilfong, testified that he went to a bar called Zippers, ordered a beer, watched some NASCAR, and wandered out to the patio. Thomas, an acquaintance, confronted him. An argument ensued about a girl. Wilfong contends that after he walked away, Thomas, without provocation, swung his beer mug in a roundhouse fashion, striking Wilfong in the face. The blow crushed Wilfong's cheekbone, broke his nose and fractured his orbital bone, drawing blood from the eye. Wilfong said he'd never experienced so much pain, couldn't chew for a month, missed a month's work and lost sensation on the side of his face for six months. 

Thomas admits that he hit Wilfong, but argued that Wiflong was the instigator. Thomas testified that Wilfong got in his face, cursed him, and "bowed up," prompting Thomas to strike him in self-defense. 

Prior to the altercation, Thomas sent a text to the bartender, stating "I'm sorry, I'm going to destroy Wilfong." (Thomas said that he sent this text in order to prevent a fight.) Thomas also told the bouncer that he would "knock out" Wilfong.

The State introduced the beer mug as Exhibit 1. It was a 12-ounce multisided glass mug that was very thick and heavy.

The trial judge told the jury that, "in determining  whether a beer mug was a deadly weapon, you should consider the nature of the beer mug, the manner in which it was used, the size and strength of the defendant as compared to the victim."

Thomas' lawyer argues that when there is any ambiguity about whether an instrument of force is a deadly weapon, a judge should always give the jury the option of convicting a defendant on a lesser charge, such as misdemeanor assault, which the judge in this case declined to do.

The State's lawyer argues that the judge should have declared the beer mug deadly prior to the jury's deliberation.
Pin It

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in News



Twitter Activity

Comments

Fine work, Mr. Billman. Your readers are probably aware that most of the NC conservative shenanigans can be laid at …

by growlybear on The Republican Power Plays at the Heart of N.C. Politics (News)

I have very little patience for the empty-headed Pro-poison crowd, which is begging the government to take everyones rights away …

by DoritoReiss on The Problem with N.C.’s Religious Exemption Law (News)

Most Recent Comments

Fine work, Mr. Billman. Your readers are probably aware that most of the NC conservative shenanigans can be laid at …

by growlybear on The Republican Power Plays at the Heart of N.C. Politics (News)

I have very little patience for the empty-headed Pro-poison crowd, which is begging the government to take everyones rights away …

by DoritoReiss on The Problem with N.C.’s Religious Exemption Law (News)

About time some one fixed this.

by Bob Schroeck on Durham Attorney Scott Holmes Challenges N.C. Court Fees as Unconstitutional (News)

And I'm just getting started- What do you think of a society that ritualizes placing its babies -their most vulnerable, …

by Nellie McFarlane De Jong on The Problem with N.C.’s Religious Exemption Law (News)

Feel free to put your faith in pharmaceutical products if you want to live like that. I prefer not to, …

by Nellie McFarlane De Jong on The Problem with N.C.’s Religious Exemption Law (News)

© 2017 Indy Week • 320 E. Chapel Hill St., Suite 200, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation