Court Upholds Snow Hill Assault Conviction On Appeal

SNOW HILL – The Maryland
Court of Special Appeals last week upheld a Worcester County Circuit Court
judgment on a Virginia man convicted of second-degree assault and sentenced to
one year in jail for his role in a scuffle with his ex-girlfriend’s mother in
her Snow Hill apartment in 2008.

In January 2009,
Terrence Richard Justice, 28, of Temperanceville, Va., was found guilty of
second-degree assault in Worcester County Circuit Court and was sentenced to
one year in jail. Justice appealed the decision to the state’s Court of Special
Appeals, arguing there was insufficient evidence to justify the conviction.
After reviewing the facts of the case, the Court of Special Appeals upheld the
decision of the lower court in an opinion released last week.

According to the facts
of the case, Polly Miles went to her daughter’s apartment in Snow Hill in June
2008 and found Justice inside. Justice and the daughter were going through a
break-up at the time. Miles asked Justice what he was doing in the apartment
and he told her he was picking up his clothes. At the time, Justice was talking
to the daughter on the cell phone. Miles told Justice to get his clothes and
leave and an argument ensued.

During the argument,
Miles decided to call police using her cell phone because Justice wasn’t
supposed to be in the apartment.  The
argument turned physical as the mother pushed Justice against a refrigerator.
Justice reached in his pocket for something and raised his hand in the air.
Miles believed Justice had pulled out a gun and was afraid he was going to use
it on her, but she also said later she wasn’t wearing her glasses and her
vision was blurry.

During the struggle,
Mile’s cousin called the police and Justice fled. He was located and taken into
custody a short time later. Miles spoke with police after the incident and also
gave a written statement prepared the night of the incident while it was still
fresh in her memory. While Miles was on the stand, prosecutors attempted to
introduce her written statement into evidence, but Justice objected, arguing
the statement wasn’t admissible.

Justice’s attorney
argued the written statement was inconsistent with the story Miles told while
on the stand and the judge agreed after reviewing the document.

“He stated that he’s not
going to leave, so I proceed to call the police on my cell phone and he pulled
the phone out of my hand and pulled his gun out and pointed it at me,” Miles
said while on the witness stand during the trial.

However, on cross
examination, Miles agreed she was not certain Justice had pulled a gun from his
pants, that he never pointed a gun at her or said that he was going to shoot
her or harm her in any way. She also testified that when she had arrived at the
apartment, she did not know at the time her daughter had given Justice
permission to enter the property to retrieve his belongings.

According to the facts
of the case, Miles testified on different occasions Justice either “snatched”
or “pulled” the cell phone from her hand. While Justice did not disagree that
he took the phone from Miles, he did argue he never assaulted Miles during the
incident. Nonetheless, he was found guilty of second-degree assault and
sentenced to one year in jail.

He quickly appealed the
verdict, arguing there was no evidence he assaulted Miles during the scuffle
over the cell phone and that he grabbed the phone from Miles so he could stop
her from calling the police and explain to her he had permission from her daughter
to go into the apartment to retrieve his belongings.

Last week, however, the
Court of Special Appeals handed down an opinion upholding the judgment of the
Worcester County Circuit Court.

“Based on these facts,
the court could have concluded that when the appellant took Miles’ cell phone
from her, whether he snatched it, pulled it or grabbed it, a battery occurred,”
the opinion reads. “The appellant’s action in taking the phone resulted in an
unwanted touching, which is enough for the completion of the crime.”

The high court also
addressed the issue of the mystery item Justice allegedly pulled from his pants
pocket during the incident.

“In the alternative, the
court could have concluded that when the appellant pulled an object, possibly a
gun, from his pants, he intended to frighten Miles, who was not certain whether
the appellant was trying to hurt her or frighten her,” the opinion reads. “This
is enough to support a finding that Miles was in reasonable apprehension of an
imminent battery.”