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State v. Carpenter

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Southern District, Second Division

September 25, 2019

STATE OF MISSOURI, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
DANIEL R. CARPENTER, JR., Defendant-Appellant.

          APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF GREENE COUNTY Honorable Judge David C. Jones.

          MARY W. SHEFFIELD, J.

         Daniel R. Carpenter, Jr. ("Defendant") appeals his conviction, after a bench trial, of assault in the second degree. He alleges there was insufficient evidence to show Defendant caused serious physical injury to Joshua Hatt ("Victim") because Victim did not suffer a "protracted impairment" of the function of any part of Victim's body. Defendant's argument lacks merit, and we affirm the trial court's judgment.

         Background and Procedural History

         This Court views the evidence in the light most favorable to the trial court's judgment. State v. Cunningham, 530 S.W.3d 567, 568 (Mo. App. S.D. 2017). So viewed, the following facts were proven at trial.

         Defendant's vehicle struck Victim's vehicle in a head-on collision in an intentional retaliation for events occurring earlier that involved Victim's perceived insults to Defendant's mother. The relevant facts of the actual incident are that on August 30, 2016, Victim and Josiah Virtue ("Virtue") rode together to retrieve Victim's brother's truck. After retrieving the truck, Virtue drove his own car and Victim followed behind in the truck. Victim noticed two vehicles approaching from the opposite direction – a black truck and a white car. The black truck and the white car were initially in the correct lane of approaching traffic. Defendant, who was driving the black truck, then "swerved into [Victim's] lane, completely corrected himself in [Victim's] lane, and hit [Victim] head-on." After the vehicles collided, Defendant continued to push Victim's car backwards "a couple feet." Defendant's father, who had been driving the white car, "pulled up and blocked the other lane" so Victim could not either swerve or otherwise avoid the collision. Immediately upon impact, Victim felt pain in his lower back and neck area.

         Victim described the actions of Defendant and Defendant's father after the collision: "They both jumped out of their vehicle and [were] heading both directly toward [Victim's] driver's door, and they both looked like they were coming for blood." Victim stated Defendant's father approached Victim and "he swung on me." Victim "swung back, " Defendant's father "grappled" him, and they both "went to the ground." The fight stopped when Virtue and Victim's mother pulled Victim and Defendant's father apart.

         Victim was taken by ambulance to the hospital. He was treated for whiplash and an L1 lumbar compression fracture. The hospital gave him a back brace, a muscle relaxer, and pain medication. Victim wore the back brace for six to eight weeks. At trial, photographic evidence was admitted showing Victim wearing a neck brace and covered with "bumps and bangs and bruises."[1]

         Victim testified his lower back and neck had not hurt prior to the collision, and he had been in the "best health as I can be for my age." He testified he had never been diagnosed with any back issues, and had not experienced back problems or back pain before the collision. After the collision, however, Victim testified he has "dealt with daily back pain every day since then. I was put into a back brace for eight weeks roughly. And there for a while it was hard to even try to get out of bed." He also sought follow-up care for his injuries.

         Defendant was charged with committing the class C felony of assault in the second degree, in violation of § 565.060, [2] for "recklessly caus[ing] serious physical injury to [Victim] by swerving his vehicle into [Victim's] lane of travel and striking [Victim's] vehicle." Defendant waived his right to trial by jury. The court denied Defendant's motions for judgment of acquittal. Defendant was pronounced guilty of second-degree assault and sentenced to seven years in the Department of Corrections. The execution of sentence was suspended and Defendant was placed on probation. This appeal follows.

         Standard of Review

         When reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence in a bench-tried case, this Court employs the same standard of review as in a jury-tried case. State v. Rousselo, 386 S.W.3d 919, 920 (Mo. App. S.D. 2012). This Court's review of the sufficiency of the evidence is "limited to whether the State has introduced adequate evidence from which a reasonable finder of fact could have found each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt." State v. Lammers, 479 S.W.3d 624, 632 (Mo. banc 2016); State v. Burrell, 160 S.W.3d 798, 801 (Mo. banc 2005). This Court views the evidence in the light most favorable to the judgment, grants the State all reasonable inferences, and ignores contrary evidence and inferences. Lammers, 479 S.W.3d at 632. In reviewing a claim that there was insufficient evidence to sustain a conviction, an appellate court does not weigh the evidence. State v. Claycomb, 470 S.W.3d 358, 362 (Mo. banc 2015).

         Discussion

         Defendant argues in his sole point that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction because the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt Defendant caused "serious physical injury" to Victim because Victim did not suffer "a protracted impairment of the function of any part of his body." Defendant asserts that if the functioning of Victim's back had been "actually impaired, " then Victim would not have been capable of using his back to wrestle with Defendant's father immediately after the collision. Thus, any ...


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