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State v. Lyden

State v. Lyden, 2020 UT App 66 (Mortensen, J.)

Criminal

Victim was attacked in his garage by two individuals, including one using brass knuckles, who was identified as the defendant. The defendant was convicted of aggravated burglary and aggravated assault. The defendant appealed, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to prove his injury or that Victim had suffered serious bodily injury, and arguing that the prosecutor had engaged in misconduct. The Court of Appeals affirmed his convictions, holding:

  • Testimony from multiple witnesses that the defendant was one of the attackers was not inherently probable under State v. Robbins, 2009 UT 23. The defendant pointed to inconsistencies in the witnesses’ testimony, but to nothing that made their testimony patently false or physically impossible. In addition, their testimony was corroborated by other evidence, including the defendant’s incriminating admissions and actions. 
  • There was no basis for believing the jury had speculated as to the defendant’s identity, even if there were alternate explanations of the evidence. Speculation means that there is no underlying evidence to support the conclusion, but there was evidence here that the defendant had been one of the attackers.
  • There was sufficient evidence that Victim suffered serious bodily injury. The evidence showed that Victim suffered ongoing headaches, short-term memory loss and tendon damage. This was sufficient for the jury to conclude that Victim had “protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ,” namely Victim’s brain, wrists, and fingers. Utah Code § 76-1-601(15) (defining serious bodily injury).
  • It was not an abuse of discretion for the court to overrule the defense’s objection to the prosecutor’s remark in closing that “this is no reflection on these two good attorneys, but their argument and their theory is not good,” because the prosecutor’s attack was directed against the defense’s argument and theory and not against counsel. It was not plain error for the court to not intervene when the prosecutor made subsequent similar remarks because the remarks were not prejudicial.

Read the full court opinion

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