Mayhem (Maiming or Mutilation)
A conviction for mayhem has serious consequences, including the possibility of a prison sentence.Elements of Mayhem
In order to convict a defendant of mayhem, the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:
- The defendant acted with a malicious intent to maim or disfigure; and
- 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.
Mayhem cases can be defended in a variety of ways.
- Defendant’s Intent - The Commonwealth must prove 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 - A defendant is permitted to use reasonable force to defend himself or herself. If the defendant (1) reasonably believed he or she was being attacked or was about to be attacked and his or her personal safety was in immediate danger; (2) made every reasonable effort to avoid physical combat before resorting to force; and (3) used no more force than was reasonably necessary in the circumstances, then the defendant must be found not guilty of mayhem. There is a very similar defense of another person privilege.
- Alleged Victim’s Criminal Record - If the alleged victim has a criminal record or a history of violence, Attorney Spring will attempt to present this information to the jury. Criminal convictions are generally admissible within a certain time frame (convictions for misdemeanors within the last five years are admissible; convictions for felonies within the last 10 years are admissible). History of violence evidence (also called “prior bad act” evidence) is generally admissible if the defendant is asserting self-defense. Attorney Spring has extensive experience litigating these types of issues.
- 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 - In most mayhem cases that go to trial, there is bad blood between the defendant and the alleged victim. The alleged victim ordinarily wants to see the defendant convicted and punished. The alleged victim’s desire for revenge will be fully exposed on cross-examination.
Some alleged victims can refuse to testify because they have a Fifth Amendment Privilege. The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution states that no person can be forced to offer testimony that might incriminate himself or herself in a crime. Therefore, if an alleged victim struck the defendant during the alleged fight or if the alleged victim lied to the police about the facts of the case, that witness can assert her Fifth Amendment privilege and refuse to testify against the defendant.
Given the serious consequences that result from a mayhem conviction, it is essential that you have an attorney who is experienced in trying these types of cases. Attorney Chris Spring has the necessary experience to aggressively defend your case.