The Appellate Group

State v. Percival

State v. Percival, 2020 UT App 75 (Pohlman, J.)


The defendant, leader of a local gang, hosted a party on Friday the Thirteenth. A fight broke out, and multiple people were stabbed. One victim suffered permanent cognitive damage. Other victims had stab wounds on their legs, hips, shoulders, and backs. The defendant started the fight and was the only person seen with a knife that night. The defendant was convicted of one count of aggravated assault resulting in serious bodily injury for stabbing the victim resulting in a brain injury and another count of aggravated assault for stabbing the three other victims resulting in less serious injuries. The Utah Court of Appeals affirmed, holding:

  • Assuming trial counsel erred in not requiring a special verdict form for count two, the defendant cannot show prejudice because he cannot show that the jury would not have agreed on any one victim for the aggravated assault charge. What’s more, the defendant’s entire prejudice argument is limited to announcing the prejudice standard without discussing the evidence. The evidence overwhelmingly supports the charge as to all three victims and that the defendant was the cause of their injuries. 
  • The defendant did not show that admission of the gang evidence prejudiced him. The defendant concedes that some gang evidence was warranted but that the amount entered was prejudicial. The defendant did not identify the line at which the gang evidence crossed the threshold from warranted to unfairly prejudicial. 
  • Even assuming that entering the amount of gang evidence that was admitted was needlessly cumulative and perhaps prejudicial to a point, the defendant did not meet his burden of showing that the omitting the gang evidence would have led to a different result. First, there was overwhelming evidence that the defendant was involved in a fight where he stabbed and injured multiple people. And second, the jury’s rejection of the more serious charge of attempted murder and entry of the lesser charge of aggravated assault with serious bodily injury shows that the jury did not merely punish the defendant for being a gang member.

Read the full court opinion