A man found guilty of aggravated assault against law enforcement wants the state’s highest court to throw out his conviction. This week the South Dakota Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments at the University of Sioux Falls. Attorneys in one of Monday’s cases disagree about the state’s definition of "serious bodily injury."
Last December a Lincoln County judge found Samuel Miland guilty of possession of a controlled substance, resisting arrest, and aggravated assault against law enforcement. For that last conviction, Miland received 40 years in the state penitentiary.
The case began in October of 2012. A police officer pulled Miland’s car over for a brake light issue after a local gas station clerk thought his actions were suspicious. Miland let authorities search the vehicle. Court documents say Miland was in the police car when he hit the officer with his fist, and the two struggled. Two additional officers restrained Miland using force.
Attorney Cynthia Berreau says the officer didn’t have significant injuries; his nose bled, but he didn’t have any broken bones or cartilage damage. She says Miland shouldn’t be guilty of aggravated assault, because he didn’t cause serious bodily harm. State Supreme Court Justice John Konenkamp questions Berreau’s reasoning.
BURREAU: Considering the minor nature of this officer’s injuries, I do not believe that the defendant intended or exhibited extreme indifference to human life.
KONENKAMP: We could always say, though, that maybe there were minor injuries because the other officers pulled the man away before he finished whatever his intent was, too. I mean, we can’t judge it purely by the injury. I mean, someone could swing an ax at you and miss and you’d have no injuries at all, but that’s certainly an assault that evinces extreme indifference to human life, so I don’t know how we base it on injury alone.
Justice Konenkamp also questions the state on the position that Miland intended to inflict serious bodily harm.
An attorney for the State of South Dakota argues Miland repeatedly punched the officer in the face during the attack and the beating has long-term health impacts. The lawyer argues that proves extreme indifference to the value of human life and says the South Dakota Supreme Court should affirm Miland’s conviction.
The South Dakota Supreme Court hears additional oral arguments Tuesday morning and Wednesday morning. SDPB Radio brings you up-to-date coverage of the cases in front of the state’s highest court. Full audio is also available online at the Unified Judicial System's website.