Left-Handed Defendant Presented No Scientific Evidence of Inability to Use Right Hand to Stab a Victim

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

In a criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut declined to overturn a defendant’s convictions for assault and carrying a dangerous weapon, rejecting his appellate claim of physically impossible conclusions.

Case Background

This case arose from an incident that occurred on July 9, 2006. An ongoing feud existed between the defendant and the victim, which came to a head at the Puerto Rican Day Parade in Bridgeport. The two first engaged in a verbal argument, then physical blows. When the defendant was on his knees, he reached for his back right pocket and stabbed the victim in the stomach before running off. At the hospital, the victim recovered and told police that the defendant was his attacker.

The defendant was charged with assault in the first degree and carrying a dangerous weapon, among other counts. At trial, a witness verified that they saw the defendant pull a butterfly knife from his right rear pocket, and a medical expert testified that the injuries sustained were consistent with those made by someone holding a knife with his right hand.

Defendant claims “Physically Impossible Conclusions”

However, the defendant testified that he was left-handed and thus could not have inflicted the injuries. He contended that one of the State witnesses, who received a plea bargain for his testimony, had a knife as well and could have caused the injury. This individual conceded that he had an eight-inch hunting knife that he unsheathed and waved around in an attempt to break up the fight. However, the blade was at the minimum 2.25 inches wide, while the victim’s injuries were only 1.75 inches in width.

At the close of evidence, the defendant moved for a new trial, which was denied. He was then convicted by a jury and appealed, arguing once again that the conviction was improper “because it was based on physically impossible conclusions.” The defendant claimed that as a left-handed person he could not have inflicted injuries on the victim’s right side, and it was impossible for him to reach a knife from his right-rear pocket using his left hand. In addition, he stated that a butterfly knife could not have caused the injuries.

A verdict rendered by a jury is typically given great deference, for it is their province to serve as the ultimate arbiter of credibility in a criminal case. However, there are a few situations where overturning the verdict is proper because it is based on conclusions that simply are not possible:

[A] verdict should be set aside [w]here testimony is thus in conflict with indisputable physical facts, the facts demonstrate that the testimony is either intentionally or unintentionally untrue, and leave no real question of conflict of evidence for the jury concerning which reasonable minds could reasonably differ.

Court’s Ruling

In this case, the Appellate Court found that, even assuming the jury took the defendant at his word that he was left-handed, “this does not lead to the logical conclusion that he could not have used his right hand to stab the victim.” Having predominant use of one hand does not instantly render the other one unusable, and the Court pointed out that the defendant presented no scientific evidence that he was unable to use his right hand.

In addition, the Court rejected the defendant’s argument regarding the possibility that the State witness inflicted the injury. It noted that the blade was too wide, whereas the defendant’s knife was “long enough” to cause the victim’s injuries. Because the defendant failed to provide any evidence that the jury made unreasonable findings and conclusions, this aspect of his appeal was unsuccessful. After dispensing with other matters brought forth on appeal, the defendant’s conviction was sustained.

When faced with a charge of assault or carrying a deadly weapon, an individual is best served by consulting with an experienced criminal law practitioner. Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.