Was there sufficient evidence to support a conviction for second-degree assault?

Jones v. state.

The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland held that when a defendant shoots multiple bullets into an occupied residence (which he knows to be occupied), there is sufficient evidence for a jury to reasonably infer that the defendant intended to cause fear of imminent bodily harm to those in the residence.  This inference is sufficient to support a conviction of the “intent to frighten variety of assault” with respect to each occupant who was placed in fear.  A conviction based on this variety of assault will be supported regardless of a defendant’s knowledge of the identity of each occupant.

In the instant case, appellant was convicted on two counts of second-degree assault and three counts of reckless endangerment.  Appellant only contested his second-degree assault conviction for Ms. Johnson, “the unknown victim,” on appeal.  The record established that Appellant intentionally fired three shots into the door of a residence, which he knew to be occupied by several people, causing an immediate fear of bodily harm to those inside.[1] Appellant argued that because he was unaware of the identities of all the occupants, and only had the intent to place certain people in fear, he did not have the specific intent necessary to be convicted of second-degree assault of the unknown victims in the apartment. [2]

The Maryland Court rejected Appellant’s reasoning, finding that, at minimum, the evidence produced need only establish that Appellant was aware of the presence of others in the apartment; the Appellant’s ignorance of the identity of the persons in the apartment should not excuse his intentional behavior.  The Maryland Court therefore upheld his convictions of second-degree assault, based on his intent to cause immediate apprehension of bodily harm, with respect to the unknown victims who were in the residence at the time of the shots.


[1] The evidence also demonstrated that Ms. Johnson, the unknown victim, told another occupant in the residence to get down to avoid being shot.  Additionally, Ms. Johnson testified she was scared, further supporting a conviction of the intent to frighten variety of assault that establishes the third element, which requires that the victim be “aware of the impending battery.” See Snyder v. State, 210 Md. App. 370, 381 (2013).

[2] Jones v. State, No. 660, 2013 Md. App. LEXIS 98, at *8 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. Aug. 30, 2013) (noting that appellant correctly asserts that this variety of second-degree assault is a specific intent crime).

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