District Court, Salt Lake Department The Honorable Vernice S.
Trease No. 151903199
Melissa G. Stirba, Attorney for Appellant
Simarjit S. Gill and Tony F. Graf Jr., Attorneys for Appellee
Judges David N. Mortensen, Jill M. Pohlman, and Diana Hagen.
Britany Minter appeals her conviction of assault, a class A
misdemeanor. Minter does not challenge her related
convictions for criminal trespass, a class B misdemeanor, and
disorderly conduct, an infraction. We affirm.
Minter was convicted of assault causing substantial bodily
injury. See Utah Code Ann. § 76-5-102(3)(a)
(LexisNexis Supp. 2016) (providing for the enhancement of
assault to a class A misdemeanor if "the person causes
substantial bodily injury to another").
"Substantial bodily injury" is defined as
"bodily injury, not amounting to serious bodily injury,
that creates or causes protracted physical pain, temporary
disfigurement, or temporary loss or impairment of the
function of any bodily member or organ." Id.
§ 76-1-601(12)(LexisNexis 2012). On appeal, Minter does
not challenge the sufficiency of the evidence proving that
she used force against the victim or that the victim suffered
substantial bodily injury. However, Minter argues that the
evidence was insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt
that Minter was not lawfully acting to defend herself or a
third person when she struck the victim.
"Utah law requires the State to disprove the affirmative
proposition of self-defense, not just prove guilt, beyond a
reasonable doubt." State v. Maama, 2015 UT App
235, ¶ 35, 359 P.3d 1272 (citation and internal
quotation marks omitted). "A person is justified in
using non-deadly force against another in self-defense
'when and to the extent that the person reasonably
believes that force or a threat of force is necessary to
defend the person or a third person against another
person's imminent use of unlawful force.'"
Id. ¶ 44 (quoting Utah Code Ann. §
76-2-402(1)(a)(LexisNexis 2012)). "In determining [the]
imminence" of the threat or the
"reasonableness" of force used in self-defense,
"the trier of fact may consider . . . the nature . . .
[and] the immediacy of the danger." Utah Code Ann.
§ 76-2-402(5)(a)-(b) (LexisNexis 2012). "Force is
justifiable under section 76-2-402 only if a reasonable
belief in the imminence of unlawful harm and in the necessity
of defensive force coincide with the defendant's use of
force." State v. Berriel, 2013 UT 19, ¶
14, 299 P.3d 1133. Accordingly, the jury in this case had to
decide whether the State met its burden to disprove that
Minter "reasonably believed force was necessary to
defend herself" or another person against another's
imminent use of unlawful force. See Maama, 2015 UT
App 235, ¶ 23. In doing so, the jury was called upon to
consider the nature and immediacy of the threat that the
victim posed. See id.
"We will reverse a jury conviction for insufficient
evidence only if the evidence presented at trial is so
insufficient that reasonable minds could not have reached the
verdict." State v. Fedorowicz, 2002 UT 67,
¶ 40, 52 P.3d 1194 (citation and internal quotation
marks omitted). On appellate review, we "assume that the
jury believed the evidence that supports the verdict"
and do not "re-evaluate the credibility of witnesses or
second-guess the jury's conclusion." See
id. (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).
Minter contends that the State's evidence could not have
convinced a reasonable jury beyond a reasonable doubt that
Minter did not act in self-defense or defense of another
person. The evidence established that Minter had met the
victim's adult daughter at a bar earlier that evening.
When the daughter returned home, she and her boyfriend began
quarrelling in the driveway. The victim and her son, who was
armed with a machete, went outside to break up the argument.
After the boyfriend left, the victim insisted that her
daughter come inside to get a coat. Minter, who was walking
home from the bar, heard the commotion and intervened. When
the victim grabbed her daughter's arm and tried to pull
her into the house, Minter struck the victim with an open
palm, causing the victim to suffer a broken nose, bruising
throughout her face, and a blood clot under her eye. At
trial, Minter claimed she "felt very threatened by [the
victim] and her son and the commotion" and that
"the overall situation was threatening and volatile with
a significant verbal altercation between Minter and [the
victim] and the presence of [the victim's son] and his
machete in close proximity." Minter also testified that
the victim hit her first, but the victim testified that she
never struck Minter.
Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the
verdict, the jury could conclude beyond a reasonable doubt
that Minter did not reasonably believe that force was
necessary to defend herself or the victim's daughter.