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COA eases burden of proof for mutilation of corpse

State v. Mister N.P. Bratchett, 2018AP2305-CR, 4/22/20, District 1 (not recommended for publication); case activity

Bratchett was convicted of mutilating a corpse under §940.11(1), which requires proof that: (1) the defendant mutilated a corpse, and (2) he did so with intent to conceal a crime. On appeal, Bratchett argued that there was insufficient evidence to support the second element. Part of the problem was that State never specified the crime to be concealed.

In fact, the State told the jury that Bratchett might have burned the victim’s body to conceal any 1 of 3 different crimes. Bratchett argued that, assuming he even mutilated the corpse, there was insufficient evidence that he did so with intent and the State’s failure to specify the crime raised Due Process concerns. How was he to defend himself when he didn’t know which crime he was supposed to have been concealing? The court of appeals was unmoved:

¶21 . . . Evidence of intent may be circumstantial, see State v. Drusch, 139 Wis. 2d 312, 326, 407 N.W.2d 328 (Ct. App. 1987), and may be inferred from the defendant’s “conduct and inferences fairly deducible from the circumstances.” State v. Lunz, 86 Wis. 2d 695, 705, 273 N.W.2d 767 (1979). Indeed, WIS JI— CRIMINAL 1193, the jury instruction related to WIS. STAT. § 940.11(1), told the jury that intent was to be found from Bratchett’s “acts, words, and statements, if any, and from all the facts and circumstances in this case bearing upon intent.” We  agree with the State that a jury, taking into account the type and quantity of controlled substances found at the 38th Street house, Bratchett’s presence at the house on December 25, 2016, the events surrounding Blunt’s death by overdose, and the apparently invalid prescription for oxycodone in Blunt’s name, could reasonably infer that Bratchett burned Blunt’s body with the intent to conceal the crime of delivery of a controlled substance.

Bratchett raised one issue for review: insufficiency of the evidence. He did not raise a Due Process violation as a separate issue. He credibly argued it as an aspect of the insufficiency of the evidence issue. The court of appeals ducked the point by claiming Bratchett did not preserve it in the circuit court. Opinion, ¶21.

 

 

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