Who Determines What Is Considered Disfigurement 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. Chandler, 1993, 252 Kan. 797, 850 P.2d 803
This case addresses the following issue:
Who determines what is considered disfigurement for an aggravated battery charge?
Arthur Chandler, an inmate at the Hutchinson facility, was convicted by a jury of one count of aggravated battery against a law enforcement officer. Id. at 804. He was sentenced to life imprisonment and he subsequently appealed his conviction.
Sergeant Gary D. Hook was working at the Hutchinson Correctional Facility. Hook was in the dining room where Chandler was seated. Chandler asked another inmate to bring him soap and tobacco to use until Chandler was allowed to purchase the items at the inmate store. A disagreement arose out of the request which ultimately involved Chandler, Hook, other inmates, and other officers. Id. Chandler was taken to segregation. When Hook was going up the steps in the C-2 cell house, he was struck by an object. Id. at 805. This caused him to fall and black out. When he came to, he felt a gash on his head and his face was covered with blood. “The cut healed and left an indented scar on the top of Hook’s head. He has problems with numbness in the left side of his face. He has lost some neck mobility.” Id. The treating physician testified that this injury could have resulted in death.
“Chandler argues that the jury found him guilty under the combined elements of the substantive statute prohibiting aggravated battery against a law enforcement officer and the statute defining aggravated battery. “Aggravated battery is the unlawful touching or application of force to the person of another with intent to injure that person or another and which … (b) Causes any disfigurement or dismemberment to or of his person,” “committed against a uniformed or properly identified state, county or city law enforcement officer while such officer is engaged in the performance of his duty.” Id. at 806-07. Chandler argued that evidence didn’t sufficiently prove disfigurement.
Chandler referenced multiple cases which addressed disfigurement, including, United States v. Cook, 462 F.2d 301, 304 (D.C.Cir.1972) (“to disfigure is ‘to make less complete, perfect, or beautiful in appearance or character,’ and disfigurement, in law as in common acceptation, may well be something less than total and irreversible deterioration of a bodily organ”); Perkins v. United States, 446 A.2d 19, 26 (D.C.1982) (the crime of malicious disfigurement required that as a result of a permanent injury, a person must be appreciably less attractive or that a part of the body must be to some appreciable degree less useful). Id. at 807-808.
“The State argued the fact that the jury was instructed on both aggravated battery against a law enforcement officer and the lesser included offense of battery against a law enforcement officer. The State contended that the jury found Chandler guilty of aggravated battery of a law enforcement officer by disfigurement. Furthermore, the State contended that the credibility of witnesses, the weight to be given the evidence, and the reasonable inferences to be drawn from the evidence are the exclusive province of the jury, not the appellate courts.” Id. at 808.
The treating physician testified that Officer Hook’s injury consisted of far more than bruising. The tissue that was in Hook’s scalp died after he was hit and was naturally reabsorbed into the body, leaving an indentation. Id. The evidence in this case was sufficient for the jury to find disfigurement. Hook’s head became imperfect or deformed as a result of the injuries he sustained. Id. Hook was the victim of a damaging action and, at the time of the attack, was rendered partly or wholly defenseless. Id.
“The Court believed that “disfigurement” under K.S.A. 21-3414(b) has no single technical meaning or single definition. When an injury has been established, whether it is a disfigurement under K.S.A. 21-3414(b) is a fact question to be determined by the trier of fact. Disfigurement should be considered in the ordinary sense. The evidence, in the case at bar, amply supported the jury’s conclusion.” Id.
Chandler’s conviction and sentence were affirmed.
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