WHAT LEVEL OF INTENT IS REQUIRED FOR AN AGGRAVATED BATTERY CHARGE?
Sometimes the black letter law passed by the legislature is unclear. The legislature can’t anticipate every possible fact scenario when they pass a law, so it lay to the courts to interpret the law and give guidance to what it means. This interpretation is called case law. When the court decides a certain meeting to the law it essentially answers a legal question. Lawyers and other courts then can rely on that ruling when they have a similar issue in their case. The following case answers the question above.
State v. Johnson, 2011, 265 P.3d 585, 46 Kan.App.2d 870.
This case addresses the following issue:
What level of intent is required for an aggravated battery charge?
This appeal arises from events that occurred on March 11 and 12, 2010, in which the victim, Michael Holcom, was struck by Jennifer Johnson and was later beaten in his home by Andrew “A.J.” Haught, allegedly at Johnson’s request. On April 1, 2010, Johnson was charged convicted of misdemeanor battery and aggravated battery by aiding and abetting. Id. at 872. She appealed her convictions.
Conflicting testimony was presented at trial. At the bar, Johnson met two men, brothers A.J. Haught and Chad Haught, and she introduced the men to Darci Drake. Drake’s boyfriend, Andy Didas, was also at the bar. The entire group eventually went over to Drake’s house. Id. Johnson then left the house to meet up with Holcolm but returned a short time later upset. Drake testified that Johnson said she had hit Holcolm because she thought he was cheating on her. Haught testified that Johnson told him that Holcolm had hit her. A.J. testified that he, his brother, and Didas went over to Holcom’s house after Drake and Johnson had asked them to do so. He testified that Drake wanted them to talk to Holcom, but Johnson said, “No, I want you to take care of it for me.” Id. at 874. A.J. testified that he took Johnson’s statement to mean that she wanted the men to beat up Holcom. According to A.J., Drake began to give directions to Holcom’s house, but Johnson gave more specific directions, including the street address, landmarks, which door to use to enter the house, which door within the house led to Holcom’s room, and where in Holcom’s room the light switch was located. Id. Johnson denied knowing Haught went to Holcomb’s house and she also denied that she asked anyone to “take care of” Holcolm. Id. at 877.
Holcom’s left cheekbone was broken in several places, and his upper jaw was totally disassociated from the rest of his face. Holcom underwent surgery to repair these injuries, which involved affixing titanium plates to realign bone fragments and wiring his upper jaw to his lower teeth. Id. at 876.
K.S.A. 21–3414(a)(1)(A) states that aggravated battery is “intentionally causing great bodily harm to another person or disfigurement of another person.” Kansas courts have held that aggravated battery is a general intent crime. Id. at 879. “The requisite general intent is merely the intent to engage in the underlying conduct. The State is not required to prove that the defendant intended the precise harm or result that occurred.” Id. at 880.
Under K.S.A. 21–3201, criminal intent may be established where the defendant’s conduct is intentional or reckless:
“Except as otherwise provided, a criminal intent is an essential element of every crime defined by this code. Criminal intent may be established by proof that the conduct of the accused person was intentional or reckless. Proof of intentional conduct shall be required to establish criminal intent, unless the statute defining the crime expressly provides that the prohibited act is criminal if done in a reckless manner.
“Intentional conduct is conduct that is purposeful and willful and not accidental….
“Reckless conduct is conduct done under circumstances that show a realization of the imminence of danger to the person of another and a conscious and unjustifiable disregard of that danger.” Id.
“From the foregoing evidence, a rational factfinder could reasonably infer that Johnson was very upset about the affair between Holcom and Deters and that when she asked A.J. to “take care of it,” she meant for him to beat Holcom rather than to simply get Holcom’s side of the story. Id. at 886. A rational factfinder could further infer that Johnson’s directions to Holcom’s house, including entry through a side door and the location of Holcom’s room within the house, were given so that the men could take Holcom by surprise rather than confront him openly and constituted advice on how to commit the crime. Id. at 887. Although there is evidence in the record which supports a different conclusion, it was the jury’s prerogative to determine witness credibility, the weight of the evidence, and any reasonable inferences that may be drawn from the evidence. Considering the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, we conclude there was sufficient evidence to support Johnson’s conviction of aggravated battery by aiding and abetting.” Id.