AGGRAVATED ASSAULT AND BATTERY
AGED OR DECREPIT VICTIM - ELEMENTS
No person may be convicted of aggravated assault and battery unless the State has proved beyond a reasonable doubt each element of the crime. These elements are:
First, an assault and battery;
Second, upon another person who is aged, decrepit, or incapacitated;
Third, by [a] person(s) of robust health or strength.
Statutory Authority: 21 O.S. 1991, § 646.
Simple assault and battery take on an aggravated character in two circumstances: infliction of "great bodily injury" or victimization of an "aged or decrepit" person. Thus, separate instructions are necessary to cover each of these situations. Specific intent on the part of the defendant to achieve the results forbidden by section 646 of Title 21 is not an element which must be proved to establish the crime of aggravated assault and battery. Rather, only the elements of the substantive offense themselves, e.g., an assault and battery that causes grievous corporal harm or that is inflicted upon an aged or decrepit person by one who enjoys robust health or strength, must be proved. General intent to perpetrate the crime may be inferred from the criminal act itself. State v. Madden, 562 P.2d 1177 (Okl. Cr. 1977); Morris v. State, 515 P.2d 266 (Okl. Cr. 1973); Quinn v. State, 485 P.2d 474 (Okl. Cr. 1971); Ryans v. State, 420 P.2d 556 (Okl. Cr. 1966).
In delineating the nature of the wounds contemplated by the statutory phrase "great bodily injury," the Court of Criminal Appeals has consistently declared: "The term 'great bodily injury,' as employed in the Criminal Code is not susceptible of a precise definition, but implies an injury of a graver and more serious character than an ordinary battery." Herrington v. State, 352 P.2d 931, 933 (Okl. Cr. 1960), quoting Hallett v. State, 109 Neb. 311, 190 N.W. 862, 863 (1920). In Herrington, the defendant's conviction for aggravated assault and battery was reduced to simple assault and battery where the injuries inflicted consisted of nonpermanent bruising, discoloration and swelling of the victim's face, even though the victim was a seven-month-old infant. Injuries were similarly found insufficient to constitute "great bodily injury" in Cox v. State, 361 P.2d 506 (Okl. Cr. 1961) (healthy woman experienced bruised, discolored, swollen face and difficulty in breathing), and Minnix v. State, 282 P.2d 772 (Okl. Cr. 1955) (victim suffered split lip).
On the other hand, a broken jaw, a puncture in the head, and a hospital stay of several days' duration, Morris v. State, supra, or injuries produced when the defendant stomped on the victim on the floor with his feet while wearing heavy driller's boots, Ryans v. State, 392 P.2d 501 (Okl. Cr. 1964), have been found sufficient to warrant conviction for aggravated assault and battery under section 646.
It should be noted that the court addressed the imprecision of the statutory standard, "great bodily injury," in State v. Madden, supra, and held it to be not so vague and indefinite as to deprive a defendant, charged under section 646, of due process. The court observed:
Certainly the phrase "great bodily injury" need not be precisely defined since the phrase is one of common acceptance.... "We think the better practice is for the courts not to attempt to define the words 'great personal injury' as used in the statute.... These words and phrases define themselves and are used in their ordinary sense in common acceptance among people, and need no explanation from the court in its charge to the jury."
562 P.2d at 1180, quoting Roddie v. State, 19 Okl. Cr. 63, 198 P. 342 (1921).
Only one case has been discovered in which the breadth of the term "decrepit" is addressed. In Herrington v. State, supra, the court held that the word "decrepit" does not encompass the natural frailty and incapacity of an infant or a child. Rather, the court noted:
Webster defines "decrepit" as "broken down with age, wasted and enfeebled by the infirmities of old age, feeble, worn out." The Latin origin is the word "crepose" meaning to rattle or crackle; stemming from the same origin is the English word "crepitate" denoting "cracking sounds." It is readily observed that these words are commonly associated with infirmities brought on by age and wear. Unquestionably, they are representatives and denote the legislative intent. It would require absurd reasoning to place an infant of seven months in the same category by declaring their [sic] natural incapability by virtue of tender age as decrepit.
352 P.2d at 934.