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Greater Lowell Bar Association

Mayhem (Maiming or Mutilation)

Mayhem is a serious felony and a conviction will likely lead to a state prison sentence.

Elements of Mayhem

In order to convict a defendant of mayhem, the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:

  1. The defendant acted with a malicious intent to maim or disfigure; and
  2. The defendant cut out or maimed the alleged victim’s tongue; put out or destroyed the alleged victim’s eye; cut or tore off the alleged victim’s ear; cut, slit, or mutilated the nose or lip; or cut off or disabled a limb or member of another person.
Common Defense Strategies

There are multiple possible defenses available to defendants charged with mayhem.

  • Defendant’s Intent - It must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant had a malicious intent to maim or disfigure the alleged victim. If the defendant was involved in a fight and unintentionally but seriously injured the alleged victim, he cannot be convicted of mayhem.
  • Self-Defense - If the alleged victim was seriously injured by the defendant in a fight that was started by the alleged victim, self-defense will likely be argued at trial.  Self-defense is available to a defendant who: (1) reasonably thought the alleged victim was attacking him (or about to attack him); (2) made a reasonable effort to avoid fighting with the alleged victim; and (3) didn't use excessive physical force in defending himself.  It is also lawful for a defendant to use reasonable force to defend another person.
  • Alleged Victim’s Criminal Record - Attorney Spring will obtain a court order for production of the alleged victim's criminal record.  If the alleged victim has recently been found guilty of any felony or misdemeanor, Attorney Spring will ask the judge to allow him to share this information with the jury.  It may also be relevant if the alleged victim has behaved violently in the past (even if criminal charges were not filed), in order to establish who started the fight. 
  • Victim’s Medical Records - The Commonwealth often attempts to admit the victim’s medical records into evidence for review by the jury. This can be very dangerous for the defendant, as there are often statements of the victim contained in the records that would otherwise be inadmissible in court. The treating doctors will usually write in the medical records that the patient was the “victim of a crime” which is obviously being disputed by the defendant. Attorney Spring files pretrial motions to exclude or heavily edit the medical records to remove any inadmissible and inflammatory sections before the records are reviewed by the jury.
  • Bias - Anybody who was disfigured by the defendant in a fight will want to see the defendant punished.  During his cross-examination of alleged victims in these types of cases, Attorney Spring forces them to admit they hate the defendant and hope to see a conviction.  Attorney Spring then argues to the jury that an alleged victim's testimony should be examined critically because the alleged victim has an interest in the outcome of the case.

The federal and state constitutions prohibit a prosecutor from forcing a witness (including an alleged victim) to testify if such testimony might cause the witness to be charged with a crime.  In most mayhem cases, for example, there is some form of mutual combat where the alleged victim fought back against the defendant.  If the alleged victim punched, pushed, kicked, or otherwise assaulted the defendant during the altercation, then the alleged victim has a Fifth Amendment privilege and cannot be compelled to testify at trial.

A mayhem conviction typically has disastrous consequences.  Attorney Chris Spring has spent most of his career defending people charged with violent crimes and will be prepared to aggressively defend you in court.

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