Case Conclusion Date:May 20, 2013
Practice Area:Criminal Defense
Description:FACTS: Defendant lived together with housemate, the Complainant. Defendant struck Complainant several times with closed fists and wrestled him to the ground. Complainant responded by putting Defendant into a sleep hold and biting his finger. Finally, according to Complainant, Defendant struck Complainant several times in the head with a heavy ceramic dog bowl which shattered to pieces. Complainant blacked out during this part of the fight and then came to and begged Defendant to stop. Complainant ran to a neighbor’s house and called the police. He later went by ambulance to the hospital. Photographs showed 4 large bloody lacerations to the head with staples closing the wounds. Shortly after Complainant was transported to the hospital, an APD Officer arrived on the scene and found the house deserted. She and another officer went inside and took photographs of the shattered dog bowl, the blood stained carpet, and the living room area where the fight occurred. These officers left without seizing any physical evidence. After a few hours, Complainant was discharged from the hospital and called 911 to request a police escort back to his home. Upon arrival home, the police cleared the house and took additional pictures of the broken dog bowl. The Supervising Officer that night told his officers not to seize the dog bowl and just to take pictures. The defense argued that the dog bowl was not a deadly weapon. While the bowl may have been capable of causing Serious Bodily Injury in the abstract, Defendant’s intended use was not do so in this case. Medical records showed that the injuries were limited to the head wounds. Complainant was prescribed a pain reliever and no further medical complications arose from the injury. While the photos at the time of the incident looked angry and severe, at trial Complainant did not show the jury any scars or permanent disfigurement, in fact his hair seemed to have fully grown back. Complainant’s neighbor testified that the wounds healed. Defendant never exchanged any words threatening to use the bowl as a weapon and the proximity of the bowl did not suggest that Defendant intended to use it to harm Complainant. Most importantly, without the physical bowl itself, the jury was deprived of the opportunity to hold the alleged weapon and judge its “deadliness.” Pictures of the broken dog bowl tended to contradict the description given since there was no visible blood on it. The Defense attacked the explanation provided by the police by introducing APD’s Policy Manual Rules. By comparing the handling of this investigation with APD’s Policy Manual Rules, the jury doubted that the police themselves considered this a major crime at the time the investigation was done. Several jurors during voir dire expressed their reluctance to convict on a “one witness” case. The defense emphasized that complainant blacked out during part of the fight and left out parts of the story that tended to make him look like the aggressor. By the end of the trial, the jury had doubts about whether the injuries were caused by the dog bowl, falling on the floor, or hitting his head on the furniture.