ANALYSIS OF OCTOBER 4, 2011 CAV OPINION[Posted October 4, 2011] The criminal appellants’ long losing streak in published opinions continues today, as a panel of the Court of Appeals of Virginia hands down English v. Commonwealth, involving a conviction for malicious wounding.
Actually, the “wounding” part is the primary issue in the case. English was convicted after beating up his girlfriend. Based on the victim’s testimony, the beating was fairly savage; he hit her 25 to 30 times, and then “kicked [her] in her back as she lay on the floor,” evidently causing lasting nerve damage. So much for gallantry. From an analytical standpoint, the only problem here is that “wounding” calls for “a breach of the skin,” based on previous CAV caselaw, and this victim didn’t suffer any cuts, although her internal injuries were quite serious.
That leaves the question of how a defendant can be convicted of malicious wounding when the victim was never technically “wounded.” If you think English has a good point here, one brief glance at the malicious-wounding statute will set you straight. That statute covers far more than just wounds:
If any person maliciously shoot, stab, cut, or wound any person or by any means cause him bodily injury, with the intent to maim, disfigure, disable, or kill, he shall, except where it is otherwise provided, be guilty of a Class 3 felony. . . .
We can agree that shooting, stabbing, cutting, and wounding all involve breaking the skin; but the statute also encompasses causing bodily injury. Beyond question, the factfinder (here, the trial judge sitting without a jury) received credible evidence of significant bodily injuries sustained by the victim, so this conduct fits within the misleadingly named malicious-wounding statute. The conviction is accordingly affirmed.
This conclusion won’t surprise seasoned criminal-law practitioners, but for those of you who only occasionally go to criminal court, it’s a helpful reminder to check beyond the popular name of a statute to see just what conduct it proscribes.