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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. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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