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New Hampshire Supreme Court reaffirms "unit of prosecution" analysis for assaults that allege "recklessly causing bodily injury to another."

Posted by Albert Hansen | Apr 29, 2020 | 1 Comment

On April 24, 2020, the New Hampshire Supreme Court issued an opinion in State v. Jami Castine, No. 2018-0341 which reaffirmed its "unit of prosecution" analysis when it comes to charging documents that allege "recklessly causing bodily injury to another."  The Court concluded that the "plain language of the statute establishes that the legislature has criminalized the act of recklessly causing bodily injury - not each individual injury."  Id. at 3 (citation omitted).  In this particular case, the Defendant was convicted of one Indictment alleging she recklessly caused "serious bodily injury to the victim by inflicting non-accidental trauma, in the form of retinal hemorrhaging and detached retinas," and on a second Indictment alleging serious bodily injury "by inflicting non-accidental trauma in the form of brain bleeds."  She was sentenced to 10-20 years stand committed on the first Indictment and to a consecutive 10-20 sentence (suspended) on the second.

At trial, the Defendant argued that one of the convictions must be reversed because the evidence at trial was insufficient to exclude the reasonable conclusion that the injuries and serious bodily harm alleged in the two Indictments were the result of a single act.  The trial court disagreed.  The NH Supreme Court reversed and remanded because it was "not possible to know whether the brain and eye injuries resulted from the same or separate blows" based on the expert medical testimony in the case.  Id. at 2.  Four physicians testified that "both types of injuries the victim sustained - subdural hematomas and retinal hemorrhaging/detachment - could result from the same mechanism and that those injuries commonly occur together."  Id. at 4.

"In sum, we conclude that the evidence was insufficient to exclude the conclusion that the injuries and serious bodily harm alleged in the two first degree assault indictments were the result of a single act - a reasonable conclusion that is inconsistent with a finding of guilt on both first degree assault charges.  Given the evidence in this case, the jury could not have reasonably concluded that the victim's injuries and serious bodily harm were, beyond a reasonable doubt, the product of different acts.  Accordingly, we reverse the denial of the defendant's motion to set aside verdict and for judgment notwithstanding the verdict to the extent that it requested the trial court to enter a judgment of not guilty on one of the two first degree assault convictions, and remand."  Id. at 8.       

About the Author

Albert Hansen

DWI, OUI, superior and district court cases, domestic violence, habitual offender, all motor vehicle/license cases, felonies, misdemeanors and violations, as well as divorce/domestic relations are the areas of practice for Attorney Albert Hansen.  Al Hansen is a 1991 graduate of Bates College, fo...


Kimberly Cashin Reply

Posted Apr 29, 2020 at 09:45:51

It is interesting to read about the details that can really impact an individual’s life.

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