In concluding that Appellant’s convictions for injury to a child causing serious bodily injury and injury to a child causing serious mental deficiency, impairment, or injury violated double jeopardy, did the court of appeals erroneously focus on the transaction rather than the result?
Nawaz’s two-month-old daughter arrived at the hospital in critical condition. Doctors discovered she had active bleeding and clotting blood in various areas of her brain, acute respiratory failure, and ligament damage and swelling in her neck. In the weeks after her release from the hospital, doctors determined the baby was blind due to retinal hemorrhaging and developmentally delayed because the abusive head trauma essentially left holes in her brain. The State charged Nawaz with two counts of injury to a child—one count alleged serious bodily injury and the other alleged serious mental deficiency, impairment, or injury. At trial, the evidence showed that the baby’s condition was the result of nonaccidental head trauma, specifically a whiplash-type motion exerted on her head and neck that could have been caused by shaking or dropping the baby on something soft like a couch or mattress. The jury convicted Nawaz of both offenses.
On appeal, Nawaz argued his two convictions violated Double Jeopardy. The court of appeals agreed. It held that the evidence did not establish that there were two separate and distinct incidents of injury. It determined the evidence showed that a whiplash-type movement caused abusive head trauma, resulting in more than one medical condition—severe hemorrhaging in the retinas and holes in the brain. “The abusive head trauma was the injury underlying all of [the baby’s] medical issues.” The court vacated the mental injury count.
The State notes that injury to a child is a result-oriented offense where the allowable unit of prosecution is each injury. It argues that since it proved multiple injuries (retinal hemorrhaging exhibiting as blindness and holes in the brain exhibiting as developmental delays), multiple convictions should be allowed. Relying on the expert medical testimony at trial, it contends that the court of appeals confused the mechanism of injury (abusive head trauma) with injury. It argues that the court of appeals was also wrong to focus on the number of incidents established instead of the number of injuries. And in so doing, the court of appeals essentially transformed a result-oriented offense into a conduct-oriented one. It contends that the number of transactions or incidents in these kinds of cases are unknown, and it urges the Court of Criminal Appeals to follow jury-unanimity and election-of-incidents caselaw, which for result-oriented offenses, focus on the injury rather than the incident.