ILNews

Convict fights tooth and nail, loses on the tooth

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2008
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A tooth is considered a "bodily member or organ" within the definition of the state's aggravated battery statute, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled March 7.

Deciding a case of first impression in Derrick C. Smith v. State of Indiana, No. 45A03-0708-CR-357, the appellate court ruled that a Lake Superior judge properly determined that enough evidence existed to support Smith's conviction under the state's aggravated battery statute.

Incarcerated at the Lake County Jail in August 2006, Smith and another inmate overpowered a jail officer and tried to escape. Smith hit the female officer in the mouth, pushed her to the ground, and sat on her before dragging her into the bathroom and trying to get out of the facility using her clocking card and keys. Both were apprehended before an escape, and the officer later had to have the tooth surgically removed and get an artificial tooth cemented in its place.

Smith was charged with multiple counts of robbery, criminal confinement, aggravated battery, attempted escape, battery, and theft; a jury convicted him last year. Smith was sentenced to 23 years, but appealed on claims that included not enough evidence existed to support the aggravated battery conviction. His basis was that the officer's broken tooth doesn't fit the statute's definition of "bodily member or organ."

Evidence presented at trial established that the officer permanently lost the function of her tooth, and that was sufficient evidence to support Smith's aggravated battery conviction, Chief Judge John Baker wrote. Since the statute only requires that one of the listed injuries be supported, the court declined to address another of Smith's claims that the state didn't present enough evidence that the officer was permanently disfigured from the attack.

"While there is no Indiana precedent for the notion that a tooth is a bodily member or organ for purposes of our aggravated battery statute, several other jurisdictions have analyzed similar statutes and arrived at that conclusion," he wrote.

The court relied on decisions that included Rivers v. State, 565 S.E.2d 596, 597 (Ga. Ct. App. 2002); McBeath v. State, 739 So.2d 451, 455 (Miss. Ct. App. 1999); and Lenzy v. State, 689 S.W.2d 305, 310 (Tex. Ct. App. 1985). Those decisions held that teeth are included in the states' respective statutes, as teeth can be lost or rendered in a battery, loss of a tooth constituted "serious bodily injury," and that teeth are separate, definable parts of the body that meet the term "bodily member or organ."

While the court ruled against Smith on those and other claims, the panel did determine that his convictions for felony robbery and aggravated battery violate the Indiana Constitution's double jeopardy clause. Smith didn't raise the claim, but the court raised this issue on its own because of the fundamental right implication.

Evidence presented at trial was how Smith hit the officer twice in the mouth and knocked her tooth loose; the court believes that evidence would be the same used to establish essential injury elements of both the elevated robbery and aggravated battery charges. That also leads to a modification in the judge's sentencing decision, Chief Judge Baker wrote.

The appellate court's ruling remands this case to Lake Superior Judge Diane Ross Boswell with instructions to downgrade Smith's Class B felony robbery conviction to the lesser Class C level and impose an eight-year sentence. That means his sentence would remain the same, as the sentence runs at the same time as the 20-year aggravated battery sentence component and doesn't impact the three-year confinement sentence that runs consecutively.
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  1. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  2. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  3. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  4. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  5. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

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