When getting shot isn’t ‘great bodily harm’ in Minnesota

The Minnesota Court of Appeals today agreed with a man who shot his ex-girlfriend that he can’t be convicted of first-degree assault in the state because the bullet he fired into her back didn’t hit any vital organs.

Doctors treating the woman said the bullet traveled 8 inches inside the woman and it “could have hit critical body parts, such as her kidneys, aorta, spinal cord, or heart, and would have been life threatening.”

But it didn’t, and the state law says the bullet had to have caused “great bodily harm,” which the law defines as:

.. bodily injury which creates a high probability of death, or which causes serious permanent disfigurement, or which causes a permanent or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ or other serious bodily harm.

“Close enough” doesn’t cut it, however, so Court of Appeals Judge Michael Kirk rejected a jury’s conviction saying the law has to be applied based on the victim’s injuries, not the actions of Quintin Deshun Dye, the assailant in the December 2013 shooting (pdf opinion).

Here, although a bullet traveled through eight inches of E.G.’s abdomen, it did not hit any critical body parts. When paramedics arrived, E.G. was able to talk, breathe, and walk to the ambulance with some help. She was hospitalized, but, after a small incision was made to remove the bullet, she was released the next day. Although this type of injury could leave a permanent lump and causes persistent pain, because E.G. did not testify, the extent of her pain and whether she has any permanent scarring are unknown. Therefore, the evidence does not support a finding that E.G. suffered other serious bodily injury within the meaning of the statute.

Judge Kirk overturned the sentence and sent Dye’s case back to district court for sentencing on second-degree assault instead.

First-degree assault can net up to a 20-year sentence in Minnesota. Second-degree assault carries a maximum seven year prison term.

  • BJ

    I’m confused, 1st and 2nd degree is determined by what happened and not what was intended to happen? Usually that is the case. I would guess that the legislature can fix this by changing “creates a high probability” to something like “creates or intends to create a high probability”

    • ec99

      Well, the only difference between murder and attempted murder is failure to achieve the goal.

      • BJ

        Attempted murder is a charge, assault really is either you assaulted someone or not. The degree of assault, as in the relation to the amount of damage actually committed or inflicted, seems a bit weird and not what was, perhaps, intended. Judges only have the words they are given to work with. Maybe it is what is intended, I have not read all the statutes to know.

  • Gary F

    What caliber? I wonder if anyone told them they were thick skinned?

    But, like most gun crimes today, they won’t spend much time behind bars.

  • jon

    Bullet in the abdomen and it’s not a high probability of death?

    When I was a kid the gun safety courses said don’t point a gun at anything you don’t want to shoot, and don’t’ shoot anything living unless you want it to die.

    Seems like shooting some one should be considered a high probability of death.
    Though medical intervention has reduced the probability of death from most causes…

    • J-dawg

      It’s not whether the act carried a high probability of death, but rather whether the actual injury sustained did.

      • jon

        It’s a Gunshot wound to the abdomen!

        internet suggests the mortality rate in urban areas for that kind of wound is only something like 10-15% in urban areas where the victim made it into the hands of first responders or a hospital…
        Though the longer you go without medical attention the worse those odds are going to get.

        Seriously, this is the kind of law they must have in Gotham city… How else did all those criminal Batman (Adam West) caught end up back on the streets after they tried to kill him (unsuccessfully) with incredibly complicated contraptions.

  • Matt K

    How any violent crime with a gun isn’t charged as attempted murder is beyond me.

  • docmarten

    Well, this is rather disturbing. It this a sort of Minnesota anomaly, or is this fairly common across the country? It’s unfortunate E.G. chose not to testify, however.

  • Vince Tuss

    Seems like this ruling was meant for today, what with the charges coming in the Fourth Precinct protest shooting and the questions about them.

  • J-dawg

    And this is why all those loons crying about no attempted murder charges for the guy who shot the protestors should thank the attorney that charged them with what he did.