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State v. Doyle

Court of Appeals of Utah

December 28, 2018

State of Utah, Appellee,
Travis Lee Doyle, Appellant.

          Third District Court, Salt Lake Department The Honorable Royal I. Hansen No. 111900760

          Diana Pierson, Maren E. Larson, and Sarah J. Carlquist, Attorneys for Appellant

          Sean D. Reyes and Kris C. Leonard, Attorneys for Appellee

          Judge Jill M. Pohlman authored this Opinion, in which Judges Gregory K. Orme and Michele M. Christiansen Forster concurred.


          POHLMAN, JUDGE

         ¶1 Travis Lee Doyle appeals his conviction for aggravated assault. He contends that there was insufficient evidence to disprove his claim of self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt. We affirm.


         ¶2 On Christmas Eve 2010, Victim went to a party with his girlfriend (Girlfriend). The party was hosted by Girlfriend's uncle (Uncle) and included about two dozen guests, mostly Girlfriend's family. Uncle also invited Doyle, who attended the party with two friends. Girlfriend knew Doyle growing up, but Victim had never met him.

         ¶3 While Doyle, Girlfriend, and Victim were together in Uncle's kitchen, Girlfriend introduced Victim and Doyle. Victim, who had been keeping to himself, looked up as Girlfriend introduced him as her "old man." Victim smiled and said, "Hello," and Doyle responded, "Are you looking at me funny?" or, "You looking at me crazy fool?" Victim shook his head and said, "No," looking down to avoid a confrontation. According to Girlfriend, all three of them looked away and she thought they "were all cool."

         ¶4 The next thing Victim remembered was waking up on the kitchen floor. He did not remember getting punched but felt pain "shooting through [his] eye and the left side of [his] face." At trial, Girlfriend recalled that Doyle "cold clocked" Victim after they had all looked away. The punch knocked Victim "out cold," and Girlfriend testified that Doyle started hitting and kicking Victim while he lay unconscious on the floor. Girlfriend tried to stop the assault, but Doyle's two friends joined the attack and she was eventually pulled out of the kitchen by her cousin. In the fracas, Girlfriend was punched and had a tooth knocked out, but she did not know who hit her. Girlfriend later testified that the beating of Victim lasted for, what seemed to her, two to three minutes.

         ¶5 The other partygoers heard the commotion coming from the kitchen, and Girlfriend's family rushed to the scene and helped Victim. As people moved out of the kitchen, Uncle confronted Doyle to figure out what happened. Doyle was "hyped up" and "[r]eally aggressive" and told Uncle that Victim had disrespected him and "was giving him dirty looks" when the two were introduced. Doyle did not claim that Victim had acted aggressively toward him or that Doyle was defending himself.

         ¶6 Girlfriend's cousin also confronted Doyle, asking him if he hit Girlfriend. Doyle made "some cocky ass response" like, "You know I did." Sensing additional impending trouble, another partygoer (J.G.) stepped between them to prevent another fight. But when J.G. turned his back to Doyle, Doyle punched him in the back of the head. Another fight started, and Doyle's two friends again joined the fray. Someone called the police, and Doyle and one of his friends left, leaving the other friend behind.

         ¶7 Doyle was not gone for long. J.G. went outside to escape the "craziness" with his girlfriend, who was eight months pregnant. As she and J.G. were talking, Doyle and his friend approached them and started "talking crazy." J.G. and the pair again exchanged blows, and the friend took a swing at the girlfriend's stomach. J.G. was able to block the swing but was knocked down. Doyle yelled, "I'm going to try to catch a murder charge," and then he jumped in the car with his friend and left. The police arrived less than one minute later.

         ¶8 Victim later returned home, deciding not to go to the hospital that night because it was Christmas Eve. The next morning, he woke up and had Christmas with his kids but was in "an extreme amount of pain." Girlfriend took him to the emergency room, where he was referred to a plastic surgeon (Doctor). Doctor found that Victim had suffered numerous bone fractures around his left eye, but delayed surgery for more than two weeks due to swelling. When Doctor was able to perform the surgery, it took eleven hours to repair the damage to Victim's face and position three permanent titanium plates and one biodegradable plate. Doctor later testified at trial that, although it was possible Victim's injuries were caused by a single punch, it would have required a "significant amount of force." Based on his experience, Doctor was ultimately unsure how many times Victim was hit.

         ¶9 Due to his injuries, Victim did not return to work for nearly two months, lived off a liquid diet for two weeks, and was unable to communicate without pain and discomfort. To this day, Victim suffers from ...

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