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Sufficient evidence of intent to maliciously wound

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//October 16, 2022

Sufficient evidence of intent to maliciously wound

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//October 16, 2022

Where appellant was a guest in the victim’s house, was asked to leave and responded by stabbing the victim in the chest multiple times, this was sufficient evidence of intent to maliciously wound the victim.


Appellant Puckett was a guest in Hawks’ house but was asked to leave. He did so but returned several times.

“Hawks’ repeated attempts to get Puckett to leave his property resulted in a physical altercation that night outside Hawks’ home. According to Hawks, Puckett hit him with a drill bag and then punched him three or four times.

“Hawks pushed Puckett away, causing him to fall to the ground. The men continued arguing until finally Puckett began walking away from the home.

“Hawks, carrying only a flashlight, followed behind Puckett to make sure that he was leaving. Eventually, Hawks turned around to walk back home. As he walked, he saw Puckett lurking in the bushes on the side of the road.

“The men argued again, then walked away from each other in opposite directions. After a few moments, Hawks heard Puckett run up behind him. Puckett – who is about thirty years Hawks’ senior – jumped onto Hawks’ back.

“Hawks told the attacker: ‘I’m not going to fight you.’ Puckett responded: ‘I’m not fighting you. I’m killing you, [expletive].’” As Puckett said this, he stabbed Hawks multiple times. Hawks was able to bring both himself and appellant to the ground, and Hawks then punched appellant once in the jaw.

“Hawks ran to the closest house where, as he waited for help, he heard Puckett screaming: ‘You’re a dead [expletive]. I killed you.’ The homeowners called 911 and rendered medical assistance until emergency responders arrived.

“Hawks’ medical records were introduced into evidence at trial. They reveal that he was stabbed multiple times in the chest and in the arm.

In the trial court

“At the close of all the evidence, the trial judge convicted appellant of malicious wounding. The judge made several notable findings in making this ruling: Hawks was not armed with any weapons other than a ‘fairly small’ flashlight, Puckett was angry and did not act in self-defense, and Hawks’ wounds ‘were made towards his lungs and heart’ and came from ‘a series of blows,’ rather than ‘one or two to get someone off of you.’”

At sentencing, Hawks’ girlfriend was allowed to present a victim impact statement over his objection.

Appellant was given a 12-year active sentence, five years of probation and ordered to pay more than $22,000 in restitution to the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services. DMAS paid the medical bills resulting from Hawks’ injuries.”


“Puckett argues that the evidence ‘clearly shows an absence of intent to maim, disable, disfigure or kill, and certainly an absence of malice.’ Puckett’s interpretation of the record rings hollow.

“Appellant used a knife to stab Hawks in the chest multiple times. The evidence, when viewed in best light to the Commonwealth, established that Hawks was walking away from Puckett when appellant jumped onto his back, declared that he was ‘killing’ Hawks, and then stabbed him in the chest and arm.

“Even after Hawks ran for help, he heard Puckett screaming, ‘You’re a dead [expletive]. I killed you.’ Appellant’s words, acts, and conduct provided sufficient evidence for the trial court to properly find that appellant acted with malice when he wounded Hawks, and that he did so with the intent to maim, disfigure, disable, or kill him.”

Impact statement

“Appellant argues that the trial court wrongly permitted Hawks’ live-in girlfriend [Sawyers] to submit a victim impact statement. Puckett asserts that a live-in girlfriend does not meet the definition of a ‘victim’ under Code § 19.2-11.01 and that as a girlfriend, but not a ‘spouse,’ she ‘was statutorily ineligible to prepare such a statement with reference to her own aggrievement.’ …

“Code § 19.2-11.01 defines a victim as ‘(i) a person who has suffered physical, psychological, or economic harm as a direct result of the commission of (a) a felony …; (ii) a spouse or child of such a person.’ …

“The fact that Hawks’ live-in girlfriend is not his ‘spouse’ under Code § 19.2-11.01 does not prevent her from providing victim input. …

“Appellant also argues that Sawyers’ statement impermissibly referred to the impact of the crime on herself and her child, rather than exclusively on Hawks himself.

“Approximately half of the contested six-sentence statement describes the effects of the assault on Sawyers and her daughter. The rest of the statement describes the attack’s financial and physical aftermath, as well as its effect on Hawks’ relationship with Sawyers.

“Notably, Hawks’ own victim impact statement – the admissibility of which was not contested in the lower court or on appeal – discusses much of the same content as the contested statement[.] …

“Admitting the statement substantially complied with the statute.”


Code § 19.2-305 states: ‘B. A defendant placed on probation following conviction may be required to make at least partial restitution or reparation to the aggrieved party or parties for damages or loss caused by the offense for which conviction was had, or may be required to provide for this support of his spouse or others for whose support he may be legally responsible, or may be required to perform community services.

“‘The defendant may submit a proposal to the court for making restitution, for providing for support, or for performing community services.’ (Emphasis added).”

At issue is whether DMAS can be considered as a victim. “[W]e conclude that DMAS is not a ‘victim’ in this case under Virginia’s existing statutory framework and that it was not established that these medical expenses were ‘incurred by the victim’ of Puckett’s malicious wounding. As a result, the trial court erred in concluding that it was required to make a restitution award to DMAS. …

“Puckett assaulted a person whose medical expenses were paid by the Medicaid program administered by DMAS. The direct victim of the crime was Hawks, the person assaulted by Puckett. DMAS and the Medicaid program were not the victims of Puckett’s malicious wounding.”

Affirmed in part, reversed in part and remanded.

Puckett v. Commonwealth, Record No. 1002-21-3, Aug. 9, 2022. CAV (Friedman) From the Circuit Court of Patrick County (Brinks) Jason S. Eisner for appellant. Ken J. Baldassari, Jason S. Miyares for appellee. VLW 022-7-314, 10 pp. Unpublished opinion.

Editor’s note: A version of this digest that appeared in the Oct. 17, 2022, print issue misidentified the case as VLW No. 022-7-313.

VLW 022-7-314

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