The NMI Supreme Court affirmed Thursday last week a woman’s conviction for three counts of assault and battery and three counts of disturbing the peace.
In an opinion in Commonwealth v. Tian that it issued on Dec. 12, 2019, the Supreme Court affirmed Shu Jie Tian’s conviction from a bench trial for three counts of assault and battery under 6 CMC § 1201(a) and three counts of disturbing the peace under 6 CMC § 3101(a).
Babul Miah, Bulbul Miah, and MD Rana Shiek had gone to a construction compound to collect unpaid wages from their former employer. Using a cellphone, the nephew began video recording around the barracks and took some footage of Tian who was inside a kitchen. When the nephew did not delete the footage of her, she chased after the nephew, pulling his arm to grab the cellphone. What followed was a scuffle between Tian and the family, in which Tian pulled at their arms to retrieve the cellphone. The scuffle finally ended when Tian fell to the ground.
The Supreme Court reviewed two issues: (1) whether sufficient evidence supported the conviction, and (2) whether, in the alternative, the conviction was against the manifest weight of the evidence.
First, the high court held Tian need not move for a judgment of acquittal under Rule 29 of the NMI Criminal Rules of Procedure in a bench trial to preserve a sufficiency of the evidence claim for de novo review. The high court reasoned that a plea of not guilty is the functional equivalent of a judgment of acquittal motion.
Because Tian’s conviction involved general intent crimes, the high court then examined the facts to determine whether she intended her actions. Because Tian admitted to making physical contact with the nephew, father, and son, the high court determined a rational factfinder could find the elements of assault and battery and Disturbing the Peace were met. The court found Tian intended to act and therefore there was sufficient evidence to support her conviction. Finally, the Supreme Court rejected Tian’s request to adopt a manifest weight of the evidence standard, because appellate courts do not reweigh evidence and examine the credibility of witnesses.
The high court’s full opinion is available at http://cnmilaw.org/pdf/supreme/2019-MP-09.pdf. (PR)