There was sufficient evidence of malice and intent to convict appellant of malicious wounding. The nature of his attack and the victim’s resulting injuries establish both of these elements.
Appellant and Miller, his girlfriend, began to argue as they drank and planned a trip to Florida. Appellant got on top of Miller and used both hands to cover her mouth and to push her down into the bed. Miller bit one of appellant’s hands.
“Appellant exclaimed, ‘Oh, you wanna bite,’ and retaliated by biting Miller on her right arm. Miller got up from the bed and felt a ‘jolt’ on the back of her head.
“Miller believed appellant struck the back of her head with his open hand. Miller next remembered waking up later that night and sending a picture of her bruised face to a friend.”
The next day, Miller was dizzy and “and her head ‘felt weird.’” Miller went to a hospital for head x-rays. She told hospital personnel how she received her injuries. The hospital called the police.
“At trial, Officer Davis testified to Miller’s injuries, noting ‘visible bruising and swelling to her face.’ Miller’s right eye was ‘purple and swollen shut,’ while her left eye suffered from ‘obvious hemorrhaging.’ Miller had bite marks and bruising on her right arm. According to Miller, it took two months for her injuries to heal.”
Appellant’s testimony cast Miller as the aggressor. He stated that Miller got on top of him and bit his finger. Appellant said he bit Miller’s arm to get her to release his finger. He said Miller then followed him around the house and was “‘falling through things.’
“Appellant claimed she fell on his video game console and tripped over her own feet, denting a wall. When questioned at trial whether he injured Miller in any way, other than biting her arm, appellant replied, ‘Nothing else.’”
The trial court determined appellant’s testimony was “‘utterly, utterly without credibility.’ Following a bench trial … appellant was convicted of malicious wounding in violation of Code § 18.2-51.”
Appellant argues on appeal there was insufficient evidence that he acted with malice or had the “specific intent to ‘permanently’ injure, or more specifically, ‘the intent to maim, disfigure, disable, or kill.’ …
“A reasonable factfinder could infer appellant acted maliciously. He purposefully assailed Miller, pinning her to the bed with both hands over her mouth. Because Miller was unable to breathe, she bit appellant’s hand.
“In retaliation, appellant made the conscious decision to bite Miller’s arm and said, ‘Oh, you wanna bite,’ evincing his intent to harm her. On brief, appellant even acknowledges that he struck Miller with an open hand on the back of the head.
“The Commonwealth provided ample evidence from which a reasonable factfinder could conclude that appellant purposefully harmed Miller.
“Moreover, while appellant tries to argue that at least some of his actions were justified – notably, his retaliatory bites – his argument rests solely on his own version of events, which the trial court flatly rejected.
“And even if true, his version of events provides no justification for his other purposeful actions, including covering Miller’s mouth with his hands or striking the back of her head. Accordingly, this Court rejects appellant’s argument that the evidence did not establish malice.”
“Appellant contends the evidence was insufficient to prove the requisite intent for a malicious wounding. But, again, appellant’s argument fails. To convict a person of malicious wounding, the Commonwealth must also prove ‘the intent to maim, disfigure, disable, or kill.’ …
“[S]everal factors provided evidence that appellant, at the very least, intended to harm Miller permanently. First, appellant attacked her repeatedly. He pinned her to the bed with his hands blocking her mouth, bit her arm, and struck the back of her head hard enough for her to lose her memory.
“Appellant would prefer the Court look at his case as one of a single slap and retaliatory bite. Yet the facts accepted by the trial court show otherwise. Rather than a single isolated act of retaliatory aggression, appellant’s actions consisted of consecutive attacks. …
“[A]ppellant attacked vulnerable areas of Miller’s body where she was less capable of defending herself. … [A]ppellant here first pressed down on Miller’s mouth – which kept her from breathing – before striking the back of her head with such force that it blacked out a portion of her memory and left her dazed even into the next day. …
“[T]he size disparity between the parties represented a heightened threat to Miller. … Being both heavier and taller than Miller, appellant used his body to pin Miller to the bed and cover her mouth using both hands until she struggled to breathe. …
“Miller’s resulting injuries are relevant to the analysis. … She suffered bruising and swelling to the face, swelling in one eye, and hemorrhaging to the other. And again, appellant’s strike to her head blacked out a portion of her memory and left her dazed the following day.
“Two days after the incident, Miller still had visible bite marks and bruising on her right arm. Her injuries took approximately two months to heal. The magnitude of her injuries evinces appellant’s intent to significantly – indeed, permanently – injure her.”
Edwards v. Commonwealth, Record No. 0091-21-2, April 26, 2022. CAV (Huff) from the Circuit Court of the City of Colonial Heights (Hauler). Todd M. Ritter for appellant. Timothy J. Huffstutter for appellee. VLW 022-7-102, 7 pp. Unpublished opinion.