In a recent aggravated assault case coming out of an Arizona court, the defendant appealed his guilty verdict. On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court failed to properly instruct the jury that decided his case. The higher court agreed that the trial court should have given more instruction to the jury, but ultimately decided that the defendant would have been convicted either way.
Facts of the Case
According to the opinion, the defendant in this case was charged with aggravated assault after he approached an acquaintance in the drive-through of a restaurant and punched him in the face. The acquaintance responded by punching the defendant back, which led the defendant to grab a knife, cut the acquaintance’s finger and wrist, and slice through the acquaintance’s shirt.
Eventually, others in the drive-through intervened, and the defendant ran from the scene. The acquaintance himself caught up to the defendant and brought out his own knife, but then put it down before taking any action. Officers came to the scene and the defendant was arrested. The acquaintance went to the hospital and received seven stitches on his finger and one on his wrist.
The defendant’s jury trial resulted in a guilty verdict, and the defendant appealed. On appeal, he argued that the trial court did not instruct the jury sufficiently on what exactly they were looking for when making their decision. According to the defendant, there are different types of aggravated assault, and the court only spoke generally about the assault when instructing the jury on what they needed to decide. If jury members had known about the specific types of assault, said the defendant, they might have disagreed on what type of assault the defendant had committed, therefore creating the risk of a non-unanimous jury decision. This, in turn, would have changed the outcome of the entire case.
The higher court acknowledged that the trial court did fail to give specific instructions on the types of assault. The kinds of assault are substantially different – for example, one is defined as intentionally causing any injury and another is defined as touching another person with the intent to injure. Given these differences, it is true that the jury could have reached a different conclusion if they had been sufficiently educated on the definitions of these kinds of assault.
The higher court also concluded, however, that even if the lower court had given the jury information about the specific kinds of assault, the jurists would have found the defendant guilty of at least one of the three variations. Given the nature of the fight between the defendant and his acquaintance, it was clear that the defendant was guilty of some kind of aggravated assault, and even if properly instructed, no reasonable jury would have acquitted the defendant on any of the specific types of assault.
Given this conclusion, the court denied the defendant’s appeal.
Have You Been Charged with Aggravated Assault in Arizona?
If you are facing criminal charges for aggravated assault in the State of Arizona, it is important to know that you have options moving forward. At the Law Office of James E. Novak, we have over a decade of experience in criminal defense and will walk you through the options that make the most sense for your individual case. For a free and confidential consultation, call us at 480-413-1499. You can also send us a message online to have your questions answered.