Oxendine v. State

528 A.2d 870 (Del. 1987)



A finding of medical causation may not be based on speculation or conjecture. A doctor's testimony that a certain thing is possible is no evidence at all. His opinion as to what is possible is no more valid than the jury's own speculation as to what is or is not possible. Almost anything is possible, and it is improper to allow a jury to consider and base a verdict upon a "possible" cause of death. Therefore, a doctor's testimony can only be considered evidence when his conclusions are based on reasonable medical certainty that a fact is true or untrue.


Defendant was convicted of manslaughter under Del. Code Ann. tit. 11, § 623(1) in the beating death of his six-year old son. His girlfriend had also caused internal injuries to the child. He contended that the state's medical testimony relating to which of the codefendants' repeated beatings was the cause of death was so vague and uncertain as to preclude his conviction for any criminal offense. The medical expert expressed that it was possible that either blows could have contributed to the death of the child.  The trial court denied his motion for judgment of acquittal. On appeal, the court reversed the conviction and remanded for entry of conviction for assault and for sentencing. 


Is the possibility that the blow inflicted by the defendant to the deceased victim is sufficient to convict him of manslaughter?




The court held that the evidence was insufficient to sustain defendant's manslaughter conviction because the state's medical expert could not separate the effects of the two injuries inflicted on the child. It held that the evidence was sufficient to sustain the lesser included offense of assault in the second degree because the state's medical evidence showed that defendant inflicted a nonlethal injury upon the child 24 hours after the child sustained a lethal injury from the girlfriend's beating.

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