Aggravated Assault and Defense of Others: Part 2

by | Feb 26, 2018 | Blog, Criminal Law, New Jersey, Violent Crimes

The trial court minimized the threat of harm the victim posed to Pugh. We disagree. Serious bodily harm could certainly result from the victim biting Pugh’s hand so firmly that Pugh could not extricate it; and so stubbornly that the victim would not relent despite defendant’s placement of a headlock. The jaw is a powerful instrument. See The Craniomandibular Mechanics of Being Human, Proceedings of the Royal Society of Biol. Sciences 3579 (2010). It can sever another’s digits. See State v. Strickland, 91 So.3d 411, 416 (La. Ct. App. 2012) (holding it was not error for the jury to find defendant guilty of second-degree battery involving “serious bodily injury” under La. Stat. Ann. 14:34-1 for biting off the tip of victim’s finger). Defendant was not obliged to demonstrate that such harm occurred. It would suffice if he reasonably believed applying deadly force was necessary to protect against such serious bodily harm.

As defendant suggested a defense of defense of others, the trial court was obliged to inquire as to the facts underlying the claimed defense. As in Urbina, the court did not do so. Also, as in Urbina, the court elicited a waiver of the defense without informing defendant that: the defense of others was a complete defense; the fact that only a reasonable and honest belief, not an accurate belief, in the use of the force was required; and the State would bear the burden to disprove the defense beyond a reasonable doubt. Thus, as in Urbina, defendant did not knowingly and intelligently waive the defense. Therefore, he did not present a sufficient factual basis for his plea.

The formal structure of legal writing ingrained in attorneys and judges is demonstrated by the citation to “The Craniomandibular Mechanics of Being Human.” Few people would dispute that “the jaw is a powerful instrument.” Still, attorneys are taught to cite to a rule or source before conducting an analysis. Here, the source is the “Society of Biological Sciences.”