In re D.P. (decided August 13, 2015)
Facts: Sixteen-year-old D.P. and her two friends started a fight with M.G. on a Metrobus on the way home from school. Blows were exchanged, and at the very end of the fight, which lasted only fourteen seconds, M.G. hit her head on a pole and briefly lost consciousness for “maybe a minute, maybe less.” M.G. was examined by emergency medical technicians who determined that she did not need to go to the hospital. No medical evidence was presented about M.G.’s injuries, and M.G. testified that she had “minor headaches” for “two/three days” after the incident. In the ensuing delinquency case, D.P. was adjudicated “involved” in an aggravated assault and an assault with significant bodily injury.
Issue 1: Was the evidence sufficient to find D.P. guilty of aggravated assault?
Holding 1: The evidence was insufficient to find D.P. guilty of aggravated assault because the evidence did not support a reasonable inference that D.P. had the requisite mental state, that is, she did not “manifest extreme indifference to human life.” The Court reiterates that the mental state required is “substantively indistinguishable” from the minimum state of mind required for second-degree murder, and held that the evidence was insufficient to prove that D.P. possessed that “gross recklessness/depraved heart malice.” In so holding, the Court noted that D.P. and her friends had no weapons, the assault was very brief and occurred in a crowded public place where bystanders could intervene, and the circumstances suggested that their intent was more to intimidate M.G. than to injure her. Accordingly, D.P.’s actions did not manifest extreme indifference to human life.
D.P. had also argued on appeal that M.G.’s injuries did not constitute “serious bodily injury” required for an aggravated assault conviction, but the Court declined to rule on that argument in light of its holding that the mens rea was not satisfied. The Court said that it is still an “open question” as to whether the brief loss of consciousness suffered by M.G., which required no medical treatment, would be enough to meet the definition of “serious bodily injury.”
Issue 2: Was the evidence sufficient to find D.P. guilty of assault with significant bodily injury?
Holding 2: The evidence was insufficient to find D.P. guilty of assault with significant bodily injury because M.G.’s injuries did not “require hospitalization or immediate medical attention.” The Court held that M.G.’s injuries were analogous to those suffered by the complainant in Quintanilla v. U.S., 62 A.3d 1261 (D.C. 2013), and that the Court was bound by the holding in that case. In both Quintanilla and D.P.’s case, the complainant had been examined by emergency personnel, and experienced soreness/pain for some days after the incident, but did not seek or require any further medical treatment. As such, M.G.’s injuries did not constitute “significant bodily injury” and the Court held the evidence insufficient to find D.P. guilty of assault with significant bodily injury. SN