Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a New York assault case discussing the required elements of “assault in the first degree.” The case required the court to determine if the prosecution presented legally sufficient evidence to sustain the conviction. The court ultimately held that the prosecution met its burden and upheld the defendant’s conviction.
The Facts of the Case
According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was involved in an altercation with two other men. During the altercation, the defendant allegedly struck both men in the head with a hard metal object. One of the men suffered serious injuries, and was transported to the hospital where he underwent a craniotomy and received 40 staples to close the injury to his head. A witness caught the entire incident on video.
The defendant was charged with assault in the first degree, attempted assault of the second degree, and criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree. At trial, a jury convicted the defendant and he was sentenced accordingly. On appeal, the defendant claimed that the evidence presented at trial was legally insufficient to sustain his conviction. He also claimed that there was insufficient evidence to prove that his actions were the cause of the victim’s injuries.
The court addressed each of the defendant’s arguments in turn. The court held that the evidence presented by the prosecution was legally sufficient to support the conviction. The court noted that a jury is permitted to assume that a defendant intends the “natural and probable consequences” of their actions.
In the case of assault in the first degree, the court explained that the prosecution needed to show that the defendant intended to cause “physical injury which creates a substantial risk of death, or which causes death or serious and protracted disfigurement, protracted impairment of health or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ.” Here, the court held that the jury was entitled to infer that the defendant intended to cause this type of harm based on his act of swinging a hard metal object at the victim’s head.
The court then moved on to the defendant’s second argument, which was that there was insufficient evidence to prove that the defendant’s actions were what caused the victim’s injuries. The court summarily dismissed this claim because it was not raised below. With very few exceptions, a claim of error must be preserved for appellate review by raising the issue at trial. If no objection is made, or no post-trial motions filed, an appellate court will consider the argument waived. Here, the court held that, while the defendant’s claim was waived, it was also without merit.
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