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. Curreri, 2009, 213 P.3d 1084, 42 Kan.App.2d 460

This case addresses the following issue:

Who determines whether an injury could cause great bodily harm for an aggravated battery charge?

“Anthony Vincent Curreri appeals his convictions and sentences for aggravated battery, criminal restraint, and two counts of domestic battery, resulting from two domestic altercations involving Curreri’s live-in girlfriend, Silvia Perez. This appeal involved the second altercation which followed a conversation between Curreri and Perez regarding attractive prospective sexual partners other than each other. When Perez identified one such possible sexual partner, Curreri was overcome by jealousy and began hitting her on the head. She ran into the bathroom to escape, and Curreri followed. Curreri pushed Perez onto the bathroom floor, where she struck her head on the bathtub. Curreri then got on top of her and began to strangle her to the point that she almost lost consciousness. Curreri was sentenced to a controlling presumptive term of 27 months in prison” Id. at 1086.

Curreri challenged the sufficiency of evidence presented to support the aggravated battery conviction. “To support this conviction, Curreri must have intentionally caused bodily harm to Perez in a manner in which great bodily harm, disfigurement, or death can be inflicted. See K.S.A. 21–3414(a)(1)(B).” Id. at 1088. Curreri acknowledges that “choking, in general, can result in death.” However, he argued on the extent of the injuries sustained by Perez as a result of his act and the fact that she did not actually suffer great bodily harm. “The plain language of the statute focuses on the potential that great bodily harm, disfigurement, or death can be inflicted, not whether these consequences actually occurred.” Id.

Cuerreri’s argument ignored several important considerations. First, whether the defendant’s conduct could cause great bodily harm under K.S.A. 21–3414(a)(1)(B) is a question of fact for the jury. Id. at 1088. Second, Curreri’s jury was instructed on the lesser included offense of simple battery. Id. Third, there was ample testimony that Curreri’s choking of Perez could have resulted in serious injury or death. Id.

Considering all of this, the jury rejected the alternative of simple battery. There is ample evidence to support its decision to do so. Id. The State did not have to prove that great bodily harm or disfigurement was actually inflicted, only that it could have been inflicted. Id.