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In re M. M. A.

Court of Appeals of Oregon

October 25, 2017

In the Matter of M. M. A., a Youth.
v.
M. M. A., Appellant. STATE OF OREGON, Respondent,

          Argued and Submitted August 17, 2016

         Washington County Circuit Court J140225; Petition Number 01J140225; Michele C. Rini, Judge pro tempore.

          Christa Obold Eshleman argued the cause and fled the brief for appellant.

          Lauren P. Robertson, Assistant Attorney General, argued the cause for respondent. With her on the brief were Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General, and Benjamin Gutman, Solicitor General.

          Before DeVore, Presiding Judge, and Garrett, Judge, and James, Judge. [*]

         [288 Or. 408] Case Summary:

         Youth seeks reversal of the juvenile court's adjudication finding her within its jurisdiction for acts that if committed by an adult would constitute third-degree assault. Youth argues that the court's jurisdictional finding is not supported by sufficient evidence in light of the court's express findings of fact. She contends that there was insufficient evidence that she "caused" the victim's injuries within the meaning of ORS 163.165(1)(e). Held: There was sufficient evidence in the record that youth caused the victim's injuries. Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the state, a rational factfinder could find that youth engaged in conduct so extensively intertwined with the infection of the victim's injuries that youth's conduct could be found to have produced the injuries.

         Affirmed.

         [288 Or. 409]GARRETT, J.

         As the result of a fight at school, youth was found to be within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court for acts that if committed by an adult would constitute second-degree disorderly conduct, ORS 166.025, and third-degree assault, ORS 163.165.[1] On appeal, youth seeks reversal of the third-degree assault adjudication, arguing that the court's jurisdictional finding on that allegation of the petition is not supported by sufficient evidence in light of the court's express findings of fact.[2] The issues on appeal principally concern whether the state adduced sufficient evidence that youth "caused" the victim's injuries, in a fight with multiple participants. We disagree with youth's arguments, and affirm.

         Neither party has requested de novo review, and we decline to conduct such a review. ORS 19.415(3)(b). Accordingly, we review the juvenile court's legal conclusions for errors of law, and we are bound by its findings of historical fact as long as they are supported by evidence in the record. State v. J. M. M., 268 Or.App. 699, 703-04, 342 P.3d 1122 (2015). If the court did not make express findings on disputed issues of fact, and the evidence permits the dispute to be resolved in more than one way, we presume that the juvenile court decided the facts in a way that is consistent with its ultimate legal conclusion. Ball v. Gladden, 250 Or. 485, 487-88, 443 P.2d 621 (1968). We state the facts consistently with those principles.

         The fight began when youth confronted the victim in the school cafeteria, yelling at her while standing very close. The victim was the first to make physical contact, when she pushed youth away. Youth then grabbed the victim's hair [288 Or. 410] and began punching her. At some point, additional participants, including youth's friend, A, joined the fight, and at some point youth briefly moved away from the fight. Near the time that youth was moving away, A pulled the victim to the floor and was punching and kicking her. Youth returned to the fight and grabbed or held the victim while A continued to punch and kick her. Shortly after youth returned to the fight, it was broken up. The victim later received treatment for a concussion and neck and back injuries.

         At the hearing, there were disputed issues concerning youth's and the victim's respective assertions of self-defense, the sequence in which various participants joined the fight, and the cause and timing of the victim's injuries. The evidence included a cell phone video of the final 10 seconds or so of the fight, ending just as the fight was broken up. Witnesses on both sides viewed the video and described, in sometimes conflicting ways, what it depicted.[3]

         The state argued in closing that the victim had pushed youth in self-defense, that youth had inflicted the victim's head injury by grabbing the victim's hair and slamming her head into the floor after that initial push, and that youth had caused physical injuries by restraining the victim while A kicked and punched her. The state argued that youth had been aided by A from the outset.

         In her closing argument, youth argued that she acted in self-defense after the victim pushed her; that youth initially fought with the victim but then disengaged; and that the evidence was insufficient to establish that the victim's injuries occurred because of youth's conduct as opposed to actions taken by A after youth had left the fight. Youth argued:

"[A]fter being physically attacked, [youth] defended herself. And as she was doing that, [the victim's friend] stepped in, pulled her hair. And that's when [youth] disengaged [288 Or. 411] from the fray. [A] jumped in, took [the victim] to the ground where [she] probably suffered her injuries.
"And *** there is a-certainly adequate evidence that [the victim] suffered injuries in this incident. But the issue is, did [youth] cause those injuries?
"And it's on the ground during the fight where, if you listen to the evidence, that's probably where the-the injuries were sustained, while [the victim] was on the ground.
"We have the video evidence. And it's very clear. You can see [youth] walking away from the fray when the scrum is still taking place on the ground. She disengaged as soon as [the victim's friend] started pulling her hair to pull her away from [the victim]."

         Third-degree assault as it was alleged here requires proof that a person, "[w]hile being aided by another person actually present, intentionally or knowingly cause[d] physical injury to another[.]" ORS 163.165(1)(e). In State v. Pine,336 Or. 194, 201, 82 P.3d 130 (2003), the Supreme Court observed that, to prove criminal liability as a principal under ORS 163.165(1)(e), the state is required to prove that the defendant caused physical injury to the victim. Construing the term "causes" as used in that statute, the court held that the state is required to prove that the defendant either directly inflicted physical injury, or that the defendant ...


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