We’ve just lost another appeal where the cops, confronted with an argumentative citizen, immediately resorted to the persuasive power of fists and handcuffs. When they got back into their patrol car emblazoned “Professionalism Courtesy Respect,” they’d sustained booboos to their knuckles. The citizen smartmouth was a pulpy mass.
The pulpy mass was charged with Obstructing Government Administration (getting his head in the way of the cops’ fists) and assaulting police officers, a very felonious felony punished by years in prison. The cops got weeks of paid sick leave, claiming “lacerations and contusions,” “throbbing migraines,” and other hideous mutilations depriving them of the opportunity to go to work. All without the silly formality of a doctor’s exam or even a photo.
The NY Legislature, known for its Spartan mentality, has always been clear that a booboo isn’t physical injury, even on a cop. To send someone to prison for years and years, you have to show they caused “impairment of a physical condition or substantial pain.” But our pals in the First Department have eagerly embraced a Court of Appeals decision called People v. Chiddick holding that “substantial” means anything that’s not “trivial.” So much for legislative intent.
Chiddick is the most eccentric decision to come out of the Court of Appeals since Hernandez v. Robles which, as you remember, reasoned that since same-sex couples can only have children by adoption or artificial insemination, it follows that their relationships are more stable than opposite-sex couples, from which it follows that they shouldn’t be allowed to marry. Yes, you read that right and we didn’t make it up.
Chiddick reasoned that a burglar who was grabbed by the macho householder and bit his finger to make him let go intended to inflict more pain than if he hated the guy. Ergo his sentence should be enhanced for causing physical injury. “Motive is relevant because an offender more interested in displaying hostility than inflicting pain will often not inflict much of it,” reasoned the judge who gave us Hernandez. Memo to suicide bombers: since you’re only interested in displaying hostility, no need to inflict much pain.
So now “substantial pain” means just anything that hurts and a person trying to escape is legally presumed to intend to inflict more pain that someone who attacks a person with an interest in displaying hostility. As Judge Wool observed, there’s nothing worse than watercooler opinions congealed into law.
Addendum: Life overtakes parody. Cops storm peaceful Occupy Wall Street gathering, grab female protester Cecily McMillan from behind, bruising her breast. Cop’s glasses knocked askew, McMillan convicted of felony assault.