COA affirms felony battery conviction; no evidentiary dispute of substantial pain

September 9, 2016

The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld a felony battery conviction on Friday despite the defendant’s claim that he should have only been charged with a misdemeanor.

In the case of Dustin Todd Garner v. State of Indiana, 29A04-1602-CR-361, the Court of Appeals affirmed Dustin Todd Garner’s conviction of Level 6 felony battery with moderate bodily injury after he attacked and injured Patrick Knowles on the morning of Oct. 19, 2015. That morning, Knowles was walking to work when Garner, who was accompanied by three other individuals, approached Knowles twice and punched him, kicked him, stomped on him, slammed his head into the ground and broke his nose.

After the incident, Knowles said he was dizzy and could not see straight. His injuries required him to get stitches in his lips, and he testified that on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the worst, the pain he experienced was a 10.

During a phone call while he was in jail, Garner was recorded as saying, “I broke both of my hands on his face, f------ broke his face, split his lip wide the f--- open.”

During the trial in Hamilton Superior Court, Garner’s attorney tendered a jury instruction for a Class A misdemeanor resulting in bodily injury, a lesser offense than the Level 6 felony battery with moderate bodily injury Garner was charged with. The state objected to the instruction, and the trial court sustained the objection, saying, “There is no basis in the world that a reasonable jury could find that there is not moderate bodily injury in this case as that is defined by law.”

Although Garner appealed the denial of the misdemeanor instruction, the Court of Appeals affirmed his felony conviction and echoed the trial court’s insistence that the evidence in the case pointed to at least moderate bodily injury as a result of the attack on Knowles.

The appellate court wrote that “moderate bodily injury” is legally defined as any impairment of physical condition that includes substantial pain. Based on Knowles’ testimony when he said his pain after the incident was at a 10, the case met the requirement for a felony conviction in that regard, the court wrote Friday.

Further, the Court of Appeals also wrote that Knowles’ injuries could have justified a charge against Garner of a Level 5 felony battery resulting in serious bodily injury.  The “serious bodily injury” requirement can be satisfied by a broken nose, stitches and bruising, all symptoms that Knowles reported.

Additionally, the recording of Garner saying he broke Knowles’ face was further proof of the severity of Knowles’ injuries, the court wrote.
Thus, there was no evidentiary dispute that Knowles’ injuries constituted at least moderate bodily injury, so the Court of Appeals upheld Garner’s Level 6 felony battery conviction.


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