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State v. Coakley

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

December 31, 2014


Heard in the Court of Appeals: October 9, 2014.

Appeal by defendant from judgments entered 21 November 2013 by Judge William R. Pittman in Wake County Superior Court, No. 12 CRS 216735.

Attorney General Roy Cooper, by Special Deputy Attorney General Mary L. Lucasse, for the State.

Appellate Defender Staples Hughes, by Assistant Appellate Defender Emily H. Davis, for Defendant.

BELL, Judge. Judges GEER and STROUD concur.


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BELL, Judge.

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Matthew Stephan Coakley (" Defendant" ) appeals from judgments sentencing him to an active term of 72 to 99 months imprisonment for malicious maiming and to a consecutive term of 24 to 41 months imprisonment suspended with supervised probation for assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury and assault inflicting serious bodily injury. On appeal, Defendant contends that the trial court erred by (1) instructing the jury that it could convict him under North Carolina's malicious maiming statute if it found that he had " disabled" Mr. Clark's eye; (2) instructing the jury on a theory of malicious maiming that was not included in the indictment; and (3) entering judgment for both assault inflicting serious bodily injury and assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury. After a careful review of the record and applicable law, we conclude that Defendant's first two contentions lack merit. We agree with Defendant on his third ground for appeal and therefore arrest judgment on the conviction for assault inflicting serious bodily injury and remand this case to the trial court for resentencing.

I. Factual Background

A. State's Evidence

On 7 July 2012, Denny Clark (" Mr. Clark" ) went to The Brickhouse, a sports bar located in Raleigh, North Carolina, to visit his girlfriend, Reina Diaz (" Ms. Diaz" ), and watch an Ultimate Fighting Championship (" UFC" ) fight on pay-per-view. The Brickhouse had four large projector screens and eight flat screen televisions around the bar. On the night in question, the bar was filled to capacity.

Around 10:00 p.m., Mr. Clark was standing in the area next to the booth where Defendant was sitting. Mr. Clark heard Defendant cursing and demanding that he move out of Defendant's line of sight. Mr. Clark stated that he could not move anywhere else because of the crowded environment. This brief encounter ended shortly thereafter. Later that evening, Mr. Clark ran into his former co-worker, Zachary Smith (" Mr. Smith" ), and told him about the incident with Defendant.

Around 1:00 a.m., Mr. Clark and Mr. Smith went to the restroom. Defendant and his friend, William Phillips (" Mr. Phillips" ), also went into the restroom. When Mr. Clark exited the restroom stall, he saw Defendant and Mr. Phillips in the restroom. Defendant was staring at Mr. Clark with his fist clenched and a tense look on his face. Mr. Clark stated, " [R]eally, over a T.V.?" Defendant proceeded to repeatedly punched Mr. Clark in his eye. Mr. Clark was knocked unconscious and woke up on the floor of the restroom. He told Mr. Smith to go after Defendant and call the police. Mr. Smith ran out of the restroom and told Ms. Diaz to call the police. He then went outside and saw Defendant attempting to leave. Defendant was prevented from leaving the premises when a police vehicle blocked his path.

Mr. Clark was transported to Duke Hospital via ambulance. Tyler Clark (" Tyler" ), Mr. Clark's brother, received a call from Ms. Diaz around 2:00 a.m. asking him to come to the hospital because his brother had been badly injured in a fight. Mr. Clark was not given any pain medication during his initial medical treatment and Tyler testified that he could hear his brother screaming from the other side of the door.

At the emergency room, Mr. Clark presented with severe trauma to and zero light perception in his left eye. He had a large scleral laceration from his cornea along the posterior side of his eyeball into his retina. The on-call resident was able to suture a large portion of the laceration but could not reach the back side of the eye where the laceration ended. As a result, the posterior of Mr. Clark's eye remained open. Mr. Clark's retina was also completely detached. Dr. Michael Richard (" Dr. Richard" ), an optic plastic surgeon who treated Mr. Clark, testified that it was not possible to repair the damage to Mr. Clark's eye, which he described

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as " a devastating injury." Dr. Richard further testified that he consulted with a retina specialist who agreed with Dr. Richard that the injury was irreparable. According to Dr. Richard, Mr. Clark was at risk of developing calcium build-up on the wall of his injured eye, a condition called phthisis bulbi. If Mr. Clark were to develop this condition, the eye would begin to atrophy and Mr. Clark would experience extreme pain. Dr. Richard also feared the onset of sympathetic ophthalmia, a condition that results from the body's immune system attacking the healthy eye due to fluids from the damaged eye seeping into the healthy eye. After observing Mr. Clark for approximately one month, Dr. Richard determined that Mr. Clark would never regain his vision and made the decision to surgically remove Mr. Clark's eye on 5 October 2012.

B. Defendant's Evidence

At trial, Defendant testified as follows: Defendant had practiced Brazilian Jujitsu and amateur cage-fighting for approximately six years.[1] Defendant trained in Brazilian Jujitsu " a couple times a week."

On the date of the incident, Defendant went to The Brickhouse with his girlfriend to meet friends from his training gym and watch the UFC fight. Defendant testified that prior to his encounter with Mr. Clark, two individuals had blocked his view of the projector screen on which he was watching the fight. Defendant had asked them to move and they complied. When Mr. Clark stood in that same location, Defendant informed him that he had just asked two other individuals to move out of his way. Mr. Clark replied that Defendant could watch the UFC fight on one of the several other televisions. After the two of them " went back and forth" with more words, a waitress told Mr. Clark to move.

When the UFC fight ended, Defendant and Mr. Phillips went to the restroom. While in the restroom, Mr. Phillips asked Defendant about the confrontation with Mr. Clark. As Defendant began to describe the incident, he " hear[d] some snickering in one of the stalls." While Defendant was waiting to wash his hands, Mr. Clark came out of the bathroom stall and walked towards Defendant. Defendant put his hands up in response. According to Defendant, Mr. Clark " grab[bed] [Defendant] by the throat, squeeze[d] [his] neck and start[ed] pushing [him] . . . against the wall." Defendant took a step back, " popped" Mr. Clark's elbow away from him, and struck Mr. Clark in the face. Mr. Clark attempted to strike Defendant, but Defendant evaded the punch and pushed Mr. Clark into a corner, facing the wall. Mr. Clark began to elbow Defendant on the top of his head and the back of his neck. Defendant buried his head in Mr. Clark's underarm and hit Mr. Clark three more times with his left fist until Mr. Clark stopped fighting back. Defendant pushed Mr. Clark away from him and left the bathroom.

C. Procedural History

A warrant for Defendant's arrest was issued on 25 July 2012. On 10 September 2012, Defendant was indicted on charges of malicious maiming, assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury, and assault inflicting serious bodily injury. The case came on for trial on 19 November 2013 in Wake County Superior Court. On 21 November 2013, the jury returned verdicts finding Defendant guilty of all charges. The trial court sentenced Defendant to an active term of 72 to 99 months imprisonment for his malicious maiming conviction. Defendant was also sentenced to a consecutive suspended term of 24 to 41 months ...

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