Unfortunately, domestic battery is a very real problem in today’s society. Many individuals find themselves in abusive relationships, whether that be a boyfriend or girlfriend all the way to husband or wife. These types of cases can be very complicated, as well as extremely emotional. If you find yourself in a violent or abusive relationship, reach out for help, as there are many services provided free of charge that will help. These types of relationships can leave lasting effects, as is exhibited by a recent Court of Appeals decision of Thevenot v. State,1 which is the focus of this blog post.
In Thevenot v. State, the Defendant-Boyfriend was appealing his convictions of domestic battery and criminal confinement, both felonies. In December of 2016, Thevenot (“Boyfriend”) and M.B. lived together. One December night, the two were up late drinking a substantial amount of alcohol. Thevenot later went to bed. Shortly thereafter, his girlfriend, M.B., went into their bedroom and attempted to wake Thevenot up and that she began “joking around.” Thevenot thereby became extremely angry and proceeded to get in M.B.’s face. She attempted to leave the house but Thevenot grabbed her, and slammed her into a glass coffee table, shattering the table. M.B.’s back was cut very badly from the glass, but Thevenot refused to allow her to go to the hospital because he would “get 40 years in prison for it.”
Two days later, Thevenot and M.B. again drank numerous alcoholic beverages while playing Yahtzee at their home. Later in the evening, Thevenot was on the phone with family and M.B. went to bed. Shortly thereafter, Thevenot came into their room and woke M.B. up. Thevenot instructed M.B. to get out of bed and drink with him, which they did. While they were drinking beers on the couch, Thevenot was talking very loudly, and M.B. proceeded to ask him to talk quieter as she was sitting right next to him. This apparently set Thevenot off, and he proceeded to beat M.B. Thevenot began punching M.B. in the face and calling her names. M.B. was able to escape the initial assault but Thevenot then caught back up to her and threw her into a chair with enough force to break the chair. M.B. tried to get up but was unable to do so. Thevenot then took a piece of the broken chair and began to beat M.B. with it while kicking her. Thevenot told her he was beating her because she “throwed [sic] him in jail for six months, so he was going to beat six months[.]”
The following day, M.B. was able to contact her sister in Kentucky. M.B. instructed her sister to call the police two days later and request the police do a wellness check because M.B. was scared Thevenot was going to kill her. M.B.’s sister called the police and requested a wellness check. Upon the police’s arrival, Thevenot answered the door and told them M.B. left, but M.B. was able to sneak up behind Thevenot while he wasn’t looking to alert the police of her presence. The police asked her to step outside, but before M.B. could do so, Thevenot grabbed her and locked the door. A four-hour police standoff ensued. Thevenot eventually turned himself in and was charged with domestic battery and criminal confinement. A jury found Thevenot guilty of both counts.
Thevenot appealed the convictions, arguing that the trial abused its discretion in admitting evidence of prior convictions and by allowing the prosecutor to discuss case law in closing argument. The Court of Appeals first found that the trial court did not error in allowing evidence of Thevenot’s prior domestic battery convictions to come into evidence because it provides motive. While prior convictions are typically forbidden by the rules of evidence, there are exceptions. One such exception is to show motive. As such, the Court of Appeals found the evidence admissible because Thevenot told M.B. he was beating her for “throwing him into jail.” As such, the prior convictions were relevant to prove motive and weren’t “being used to shine a negative light on Thevenot’s character.”
The Court of Appeals also found no error by the trial court in allowing the prosecutor to read case law in her closing argument. The Court noted that the proper scope of closing argument is within the sound discretion of the trial court. Furthermore, the prosecutor had made it clear that she was reading from a case, and Thevenot did not claim that the law read from the case was incorrect. As such, the Court of Appeals stated: “[w]e cannot say the trial court abused its discretion in allowing the prosecutor to read that sentence from case law during closing argument.” Therefore, the Court of Appeals affirmed the convictions of Thevenot.
This area of law is extremely technical, while also having the potential to completely change the course of your life. An individual who is unaware of their rights may have them violated without even knowing. The importance of understanding the status of developments in the law is the key to avoiding criminal liability, as well as being an engaged citizen in our participatory system of government. This blog post on a key new case was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. who handle criminal defense cases and appeals of criminal convictions throughout the state. Knowing the law is key to be an engaged citizen. Having criminal defense counsel current on the latest developments in law provides you with the best criminal defense. This blog is written for educational purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice or a solicitation for services. It is an advertisement.