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Zamarianne v. State

Supreme Court of Delaware

August 24, 2018

ZAMARIANNE (a.k.a. JONATHAN) BRADLEY Defendant-Below, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF DELAWARE Plaintiff-Below, Appellee.

          Submitted: August 22, 2018

          Court Below: Superior Court of the State of Delaware ID No. 1604019796 (N)

         Upon appeal from the Superior Court. AFFIRMED.

          Nicole M. Walker, Esquire, Office of the Public Defender, Wilmington, Delaware, for Appellant.

          Carolyn S. Hake, Esquire, Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware, for Appellee.

          Before VALIHURA, VAUGHN and TRAYNOR, Justices.

          VALIHURA, Justice.

         On August 2, 2017, a jury found Zamarianne Bradley ("Bradley") guilty of first-degree assault of a law enforcement officer and resisting arrest.[1] She now appeals that conviction and the trial court's ruling denying her motion for acquittal. Bradley argues that the evidence was insufficient for the jury to find that Bradley's victim suffered the requisite "serious physical injury" for the First Degree Assault conviction, and that the jury instruction on that charge prevented the jury from intelligently performing its duties. We deny Bradley's requests on appeal and AFFIRM Bradley's conviction.

         I. RELEVANT FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On April 26, 2016, at a station south of Delaware, Bradley boarded an Amtrak Acela train bound for Boston. When the conductor asked for her ticket, Bradley said that she had already given him one and refused to show it to him again. The conductor then asked for Bradley's identification so that he could determine whether she actually had purchased a ticket, but again Bradley refused to do as requested. The conductor told Bradley that, in order to continue the trip, she would need to help him verify her purchase or buy a ticket in cash, or else disembark at the next stop, Wilmington. But Bradley just walked away and took a seat. When the train arrived in Wilmington, Bradley still had not furnished a ticket or purchased one, and she refused to leave the train, so the conductor called Amtrak police to compel her to disembark.

         Three Amtrak police officers soon approached Bradley's seat in the back of one of the cars and asked her to present a ticket. Bradley refused yet again, but said that her sister had bought her a ticket. The officers still could not corroborate the purchase and again requested that Bradley purchase a ticket or leave the train. And, yet again, Bradley refused to budge. The police officers threatened to arrest her if she did not voluntarily leave the train. Their efforts were to no avail.

         The officers told Bradley that she was under arrest, and she then pressed her back to the wall and started to fight the police. She flailed her arms and kicked and punched the officers as they tried to extract her from her seat.[2] She soon threw herself to the floor and continued flailing in the aisle of a train car filled with passengers as the officers struggled to restrain her. Amid the altercation, Officer Shawn Martin ("the Officer"), a uniformed patrol officer, arrived with another Amtrak police officer as backup. The Officer restrained Bradley's left arm while the other officers struggled to handcuff her, and the Officer lost his balance due to a sudden change in the center of gravity as someone fell and pulled him down. As the Officer adjusted to keep himself from falling farther, Bradley's teeth broke through two layers of the Officer's clothing, latched onto his right tricep, and she bit him. The Officer "cried in pain, "[3] and screamed, "I'm bit."[4] Blood starting flowing down his elbow. The Officer later described the pain as "horrendous" and a "burning, grabbing" feeling.[5] He darted to the restroom to wash his wound with antiseptic foam because he feared contracting a disease.

         While the Officer checked on his wound, Bradley continued fighting the other officers. It took five to six minutes for them to remove Bradley from the train by dragging her on her back by her arms and legs, and they eventually subdued her on a narrow section of the platform after another five to six minutes-all while trying not to fall onto the tracks and risk electrocution.

         As was standard operating procedure, separate ambulances were called for the Officer and Bradley. At Saint Francis Hospital, the Officer was prescribed post-exposure prophylaxis, or PEP, to prevent HIV transmission.[6] Two-and-a-half weeks into the regimen, the police learned that Bradley had HIV and Hepatitis C, compelling the Officer to finish the full 28-day treatment cycle, which included a "cocktail" of pills.[7] He testified that "[o]bviously, with any interaction like that, any human bite, you're concerned with disease transmission." "The mouth is a dirty thing."[8]

         The Officer further testified at trial that the treatment caused him to feel as much nausea as he did when he had undergone chemo and radiation therapy for a previous illness. He also had diarrhea. He testified that he was unable to have a solid bowel movement for the entirety of the treatment. As of trial, more than a year after Bradley's arrest, the Officer retained a scar, including discoloration, from the bite. At trial, the Officer testified that he had not tested positive for HIV, but he was still undergoing testing. He testified that he had to have his blood tested for two years and that doctors could not tell him definitively whether or not he contracted HIV from Bradley.

         Amid the scuffle, the Officer also suffered a hip injury, and the pain persisted for days.[9] It turns out that he had torn his labrum, which required surgery. The recovery prevented him from performing his normal work duties for more than a year. He visited the doctor at least fifteen times and completed eight weeks of physical therapy. He testified at trial that he was still experiencing hip pain and had also developed lower back pain from a prolonged period of walking with an "abnormal gait."[10]

         A grand jury indicted Bradley on one count of Robbery First Degree, two counts of Assault First Degree, one count of Attempted Assault First Degree, one count of Resisting Arrest, one count of misdemeanor Theft of Services, and one count of misdemeanor Disorderly Conduct.[11] The first count of Assault First Degree (Count II) charged Bradley with intentionally causing serious physical injury to a law enforcement officer by biting him. The second count of Assault First Degree (Count III) charged Bradley with recklessly causing serious physical injury to the Officer's hip while committing or attempting the felony of Resisting Arrest. The Attempted Assault First Degree count (Count IV) charged Bradley with attempting to seriously and permanently disfigure the Officer or permanently disable a member or organ of his body by biting him while knowing that she had an infectious disease.

         A jury trial was held on August 1 and August 2, 2017, and before the jury began deliberations at the end of trial, the trial court gave it the following instruction concerning the definition of "serious physical injury," an element of the crime of Assault First Degree:

The term 'serious physical injury' means any physical injury which creates a substantial risk of death or which causes serious and prolonged disfigurement, prolonged impairment of health or prolonged loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ.[12]

         The jury convicted Bradley of Assault First Degree for intentionally causing serious physical injury to a law enforcement officer by biting him (Count II) and Resisting Arrest (Count V). Bradley was acquitted on the additional charge of Assault First Degree (Count III) and Attempted Assault First Degree (Count IV). The State had declined to prosecute the charges of Theft of Services and Disorderly Conduct (Counts VI and VII, respectively). The Court sua sponte dismissed the Robbery First Degree charge (Count I).[13] This appeal followed.

         II. ANALYSIS

         On appeal, Bradley contends that this Court should reverse her conviction of Assault First Degree (Count II) for two reasons. First, she asserts that, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, there was insufficient evidence for a rational jury to find that the Officer had suffered a "serious physical injury," as required for conviction. Second, she argues that the trial court's jury instruction for "serious physical injury" constituted plain error because it failed to supply the statutory definition of the term "physical injury" embedded in that instruction. Thus, she appears to suggest that, since the statutory definition of "physical injury" is arguably narrower than the term as used in common parlance, "the jury could not determine whether there was a less serious form of injury for which Bradley may actually have been responsible."[14]

         Both of Bradley's arguments fail on appeal. First, reviewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, there is a clear basis for a rational jury to conclude that the Officer suffered "serious physical injury" as a result of Bradley's actions.[15]Second, given that Bradley's counsel failed to object to the jury instruction given at trial, we review the trial court's jury instruction for plain error, [16] and will order a new trial only if, after finding error, we deem it to be "so clearly prejudicial to substantial rights as to jeopardize the fairness and integrity of the trial process."[17] Here, the trial court's jury instruction tracked the statutory definition of "serious physical injury" and did not constitute plain error, even without including the statutory definition of the term "physical injury" embedded in that definition.

         1. The Prosecution's evidence, including the Officer's scar, was sufficient for a rational trier of fact to find that the Officer had suffered a "serious physical injury."

         Bradley contends that the record was insufficient to support a finding by any rational trier of fact that the Officer suffered a "serious physical injury." As defined in 11 Del. C. § 222(26), a "serious physical injury" is a "physical injury which creates a substantial risk of death, or which causes serious and prolonged disfigurement, prolonged impairment of health or prolonged loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ, or which causes the unlawful termination of a pregnancy without the consent of the pregnant female."[18]

         On appeal, this Court defers to the jury's factual findings because "the jury is the sole trier of fact responsible for determining witness credibility, resolving conflicts in testimony and for drawing any inferences from the proven facts."[19] Further, we have said that a victim's testimony on the extent of his or ...


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