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Wife’s pain from shove, poked forehead ‘bodily injury,’ justices rule

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The Indiana Supreme Court late Monday reconciled conflicting interpretations of the “bodily injury” requirement for domestic battery and other criminal offenses using that language, concluding that any such offense that causes the victim physical pain meets the test.

Justices drew a “bright line” in a unanimous 18-page opinion written by Justice  Mark Massa in Elmer J. Bailey v. State of Indiana, 49S02-1204-CR-234.

Elmer Bailey was convicted in Marion Superior Court of two counts of Class D felony domestic battery, enhanced from misdemeanors because of his prior convictions against the victim, his wife of 11 years, Farrenquai Bailey.

During a night in which the couple was drinking at home, Elmer Bailey became verbally abusive before poking Farrenquai Bailey multiple times in the forehead with his finger hard enough to push her head back, she testified. He also shoved her, and the actions caused physical pain, she said.

Justices overturned an Indiana Court of Appeals panel that in an unpublished opinion reversed Elmer Bailey’s conviction. That panel ruled that, “[I]n order for (the victim) to have suffered ‘bodily injury’ sufficient to justify Elmer’s conviction, her pain ‘must be sufficient to rise to a level of ‘impairment of physical condition.’”

“We think this is the wrong approach,” Massa wrote. “Nothing in our prior treatment of this statute implies such a hurdle, despite the facts of the particular cases. Rather, our prior treatment establishes a structure that mirrors statutes from other states and the Model Penal Code by creating a very low threshold for ‘bodily injury’ while maintaining a much more rigorous standard for ‘serious bodily injury.’”

The opinion pointed to a conflicting appellate panel’s opinion in a separate case issued just six days after the COA ruled in Bailey –  Toney v. State, 961 N.E.2d 57, 59 (Ind. Ct. App. 2012). That panel ruled, “The statutory definition of bodily injury is clear and unambiguous. It contains no requirement that the pain be of any particular severity, nor does it require that the pain endure for any particular length of time. It must simply be physical pain.”

“Our holding today settles a question of statutory interpretation about which reasonable minds can differ. We choose this approach, in part, because we believe the alternative — requiring physical pain to rise to a particular level of severity before it constitutes an impairment of physical condition — could bring uncertainty to our relatively straightforward statutory structure,” Massa wrote.

The justices acknowledged the opinion risks witness coaching and potential false claims of pain in emotionally charged he said/she said cases. “But those are challenges of witness credibility, not statutory construction, and they are not new to criminal litigation. They are largely addressed through zealous advocacy and effective cross-examination,” according to the opinion.

The opinion noted that Indiana’s statutory language regarding bodily injury has been on the books for more than 35 years without modification. “Certainly, had the General Assembly disapproved of our approach and desired to create a threshold standard for physical pain, it could have done so. In the absence of such a change, we think it fair to infer a persuasive degree of legislative acquiescence with respect to our approach.”

The justices also affirmed Elmer Bailey’s sentence as appropriate because he was on probation at the time for a similar offense, and he has 11 prior adult convictions.

 
 



 

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  1. Family court judges never fail to surprise me with their irrational thinking. First of all any man who abuses his wife is not fit to be a parent. A man who can't control his anger should not be allowed around his child unsupervised period. Just because he's never been convicted of abusing his child doesn't mean he won't and maybe he hasn't but a man that has such poor judgement and control is not fit to parent without oversight - only a moron would think otherwise. Secondly, why should the mother have to pay? He's the one who made the poor decisions to abuse and he should be the one to pay the price - monetarily and otherwise. Yes it's sad that the little girl may be deprived of her father, but really what kind of father is he - the one that abuses her mother the one that can't even step up and do what's necessary on his own instead the abused mother is to pay for him???? What is this Judge thinking? Another example of how this world rewards bad behavior and punishes those who do right. Way to go Judge - NOT.

  2. Right on. Legalize it. We can take billions away from the drug cartels and help reduce violence in central America and more unwanted illegal immigration all in one fell swoop. cut taxes on the savings from needless incarcerations. On and stop eroding our fourth amendment freedom or whatever's left of it.

  3. "...a switch from crop production to hog production "does not constitute a significant change."??? REALLY?!?! Any judge that cannot see a significant difference between a plant and an animal needs to find another line of work.

  4. Why do so many lawyers get away with lying in court, Jamie Yoak?

  5. Future generations will be amazed that we prosecuted people for possessing a harmless plant. The New York Times came out in favor of legalization in Saturday's edition of the newspaper.

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