Appeal from Superior Court of Spokane County. Docket No: 94-1-01611-4. Date filed: 04/13/95. Judge signing: Hon. Tari S. Eitzen.
Authored by Stephen M. Brown. Concurring: John A. Schultheis, Frank L. Kurtz.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Brown
BROWN, J. Daniel Jay Courts appeals his conviction of first degree assault, contending the evidence was generally insufficient and also that there was insufficient evidence to prove that the victim sustained a "serious bodily injury" as defined in RCW 46.61.522(2). We affirm.
On September 22, 1994, Daniel Courts and his brother, Rocky W. Courts, were involved in a one-car accident at the intersection of State Route 27 and the Old Palouse Highway. Daniel was driving the vehicle southbound on the Old Palouse Highway and failed to stop at a "T" intersection. The car proceeded into a ditch, up an embankment, and then became airborne, traveling 38 feet in the air until it struck another embankment causing the vehicle to stop.
State Trooper Bradley Osmonovich arrived at the scene at approximately 4:10 a.m. He briefly spoke with Daniel and noticed a strong odor of alcohol. Blood alcohol tests revealed that Daniel had a blood alcohol level of .16. Trooper Osmonovich also spoke with Rocky Courts at the scene and noticed he had sustained severe facial injuries. Daniel was taken to Sacred Heart Medical Center and Rocky was taken to Valley General Hospital. At Valley General Hospital, Detective Jeff Sale noticed that Rocky also smelled of alcohol. The injuries to Rocky's face and thumb required surgery. He was released from the hospital the next day.
The State charged Daniel with one count of vehicular assault and one count of second degree driving while license suspended or revoked. Daniel stipulated to the second degree driving while license suspended or revoked charge. A trial was held between January 6 and January 11, 1995 on the vehicular assault charge.
Two Washington State Troopers and one detective testified that when each came in contact with Rocky at either the accident scene or hospital they noticed he had sustained severe facial injuries. Dr. Eric Leavitt, an ear, nose and throat specialist, who treated Rocky at Valley General Hospital, testified that part of Rocky's nose had been torn off. The soft tissue had been torn off down to the bone and the cartilage in the middle of the nose had been partially torn. Dr. Leavitt also testified that Rocky had sustained a laceration on the right eyelid approximately 10 centimeters in length, three additional lacerations on the right upper eyelid approximately 7 sonometers in length, and a 4- sonometer laceration below the chin that went down to the bone. Dr. Leavitt also testified that the lacerations to Rocky's face would likely cause scarring. Dr. Leavitt has not seen Rocky since he was released from the hospital on September 23, 1994.
The State elicited testimony about the condition of Rocky's thumb from Dr. Leavitt and Dr. Michael Mainer, an emergency room doctor at Valley General Hospital who first examined Rocky. The evidence showed that Rocky's thumb was dislocated and that it would take approximately four to six weeks to heal. Any prolonged impairment in the use of his thumb is not clear since the doctor who actually treated the injury did not testify. The jury returned a verdict finding Daniel Courts guilty of vehicular assault.
Daniel appeals, contending first that there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction of vehicular assault, and second that by not producing Rocky at the trial to show his current condition the State failed to show Rocky sustained a "serious bodily injury" as defined in RCW 46.61.522(2).
"The test for determining the sufficiency of the evidence is whether, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the State, any rational trier of fact could have found guilt beyond a reasonable doubt." State v. Salinas, 119 Wash. 2d 192, 201, 829 P.2d 1068 (1992) (citing State v. Green, 94 Wash. 2d 216, 220-22, 616 P.2d 628 (1980)). All inferences must be drawn in favor of the State and interpreted most strongly against the defendant. State v. Partin, 88 Wash. 2d 899, 906-07, 567 P.2d 1136 (1977).
To support a conviction of vehicular assault, the State must prove the individual operated or drove any vehicle:
(a) In a reckless manner, and this conduct is the proximate cause of serious bodily injury to another; or (b) While under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug, as defined by RCW 46.61.502, and this conduct is the proximate cause of serious bodily injury to another. RCW 46.61.522(1). The statute defines serious bodily injury as "bodily injury which involves a substantial risk of death, serious permanent ...