Joseph Coleman secured a not guilty verdict of Aggravated Assault following a jury trial in the case of Com. v. J.H. J.H. was arrested and charged with Aggravated Assault and lesser charges. Aggravated Assault is a felony of the first degree, and criminalizes an attempt to cause or intentionally causing serious bodily injury to another person.
The stakes were high as J.H. was facing a mandatory 10 to 20 years of incarceration if convicted. Rejecting a pre-trial offer to plead guilty in exchange for 5 to 10 years imprisonment, J.H. placed his faith in attorney Joseph Coleman to convince twelve jurors of his innocence.
The government’s evidence consisted of quantity over quality. While incarcerated, J.H.’s cellmate stole his personal belongings. J.H. told a correctional officer, and his belongings were recovered. However, his cellmates’ nephew (“victim”), who was also incarcerated, heard of this and went to talk to J.H. The conversation escalated into a physical fight when J.H. allegedly told the victim that he had to suffer for his uncle’s actions.
According to the victim’s friend, J.H. threw the victim on to the ground and stomped on his head four times while he was defenseless. The government called a doctor to testify that the victim suffered traumatic brain damage requiring a medically induced coma and months of hospitalization. If believed, the stomping would constitute intentionally causing serious bodily injury and, thus, J.H. would be guilty of Aggravated Assault.
Mr. Coleman painted an entirely different picture for the jury and argued that there never was a stomping. Through cross-examination, Mr. Coleman established that the victim was mad that J.H. “ratted” his uncle out. He went to J.H.’s prison cell three times, with his friend, to confront J.H.
The victim gave multiple stories about what happened. Initially, he told detectives that he entered the cell to fight, but he didn’t remember anything else. At trial, he testified that J.H. picked him up, slammed him on the ground and that he blacked out.
Mr. Coleman highlighted the inconsistencies and showed that he had a motive to lie, because he was on probation for gun charges, and had open felony Possession with the Intent to Deliver charges, that were being prosecuted by the same district attorney’s office that was prosecuting J.H.
The victim’s friend was the government’s key witness as he was the only one that allegedly saw J.H. stomp the victim’s head. However, under fierce cross-examination by Mr. Coleman, he admitted that he didn’t actually see the head stomps and only heard them. And then, when confronted even further, he testified that it could have been punches that he heard. He also had motive to lie as he was on probation for charges that were being prosecuted by the same district attorney’s office that was prosecuting J.H.
Finally, Mr. Coleman utilized his expertise in having cross-examined hundreds of medical expert witnesses to force the government’s doctor to admit that he couldn’t give his expert opinion that the injuries were caused by stomps to the head, as they could have also been caused by falling to the concrete floor.
Although the government’s case was nearly decimated, Mr. Coleman did not hold back the punches. He called correctional officers to testify that they confiscated J.H.’s shoes after the incident. Significantly, the shoes did not have any blood on them. An investigation is essential in any case but was especially crucial here. Mr. Coleman obtained the names of these witnesses, and a property log showing that the shoes were confiscated, through independent investigation. The prosecutor had represented that the shoes were never confiscated!
After the evidence, Mr. Coleman argued to the jury that J.H. acted in self-defense when two inmates came into his cell to “confront” him. Also, J.H. didn’t intentionally cause serious bodily injury as he couldn’t have known that traumatic brain injury would have occurred from slamming the victim on the ground. Following a week-long trial, the jury deliberated for merely 30 minutes and came back with a resounding verdict of Not Guilty to all charges. Refuse to Lose! Read here to learn more about Aggravated Assault charges.