Caldwell v. State

CourtAlabama Court of Criminal Appeals
Writing for the CourtBOWEN; TAYLOR and McMILLAN, JJ., and JONES; PATTERSON; MONTIEL; PATTERSON
Citation615 So.2d 1280
Decision Date22 January 1993
PartiesMack CALDWELL III v. STATE. CR 91-1093.

Page 1280

615 So.2d 1280
Mack CALDWELL III
v.
STATE.
CR 91-1093.
Court of Criminal Appeals of Alabama.
Jan. 22, 1993.

Lindsay Clay Callaham, Montgomery, for appellant.

James H. Evans, Atty. Gen., and Gregory Griffin, Sr., Asst. Atty. Gen., for appellee.

BOWEN, Presiding Judge.

The appellant, Mack Caldwell III, was convicted after a jury trial of manslaughter in violation of § 13A-6-3, Code of Alabama 1975, and was sentenced as a habitual offender to 10 years' imprisonment. On this appeal from that conviction, the appellant raises five issues, all of which relate to the sufficiency of the evidence. The recitation of the evidence, Part I, and portions of Part II of this opinion were authored by Judge Patterson.

At trial, the State's evidence tended to prove the following facts: On August 1, 1991, the appellant and the victim, his girlfriend, Janice Jones, argued and fought. At one point, the appellant found the victim walking along a street, got out of his car, dragged her toward his car, and beat her. He threatened to kill the victim. The victim fled from the appellant on foot that night. The appellant beat the victim often.

At trial, the only evidence produced by the State regarding the events of August 4, 1991, the date of the offense, was the appellant's videotaped statement and the testimony of Dr. Alan Stilwell. The videotaped statement revealed the following: On August 4, the appellant found a bottle of his cologne in the victim's purse. He asked the victim if she was going to give the cologne "to her man." She replied that she

Page 1281

was going to give it to R.B., her stepfather. They began arguing about to whom she was going to give the cologne. The appellant pushed the victim once in the chest with both hands, and she fell backwards in front of a sofa. The appellant stated that he "might have pushed her too hard." The victim fell on her seat and then to a laying position on the floor near the middle of the sofa. Her back may have hit the sofa. The victim's eyes were open, and she was making a slight moaning sound. Initially, the appellant thought the victim was "playing." He sat in a chair and watched her. She then turned her head away and did not move. The appellant picked her up, placed her on the sofa, and covered her with a blanket. The appellant began to worry and called his mother, who told him to call the paramedics. He called the paramedics, who subsequently pronounced the victim dead at the scene.

Dr. Allen Stilwell, a medical examiner employed by the Department of Forensic Sciences, examined the victim's body. His opinion was that the cause of death was "commotio cordis" or a concussion of the heart, which results from severe, non-penetrating, blunt force trauma to the heart.

According to Dr. Stilwell, commotio cordis is believed to lead to death in either of two ways. First, the energy from a direct, sharp, forceful blow to the chest may be transmitted to the heart wall causing one or more coronary arteries to spasm. The result is the loss of blood flow to other parts of the heart, which causes heart stoppage, resulting in death. Second, such a blow may disrupt the conducting system of the heart resulting in an irregular, uncontrollable, ineffective heartbeat resulting in the lack of blood outflow from the heart and eventually resulting in death.

Dr. Stilwell's examination revealed that the victim's heart showed no signs of bruising or injury. The victim did, however, have three freshly broken ribs, which alone were insufficient to cause death in a subject of the victim's age. Dr. Stilwell testified that the broken ribs were consistent with at least one severe blow to the chest and that they were also consistent with a concussion to the heart. The victim's heart injury was not consistent with merely having been pushed, although it was "possible" that this injury could have been caused by being pushed into a hard object. Dr. Stilwell based his diagnosis on the absence of any toxins or heart defects and the presence of the broken ribs.

Stilwell admitted that commotio cordis was an uncommon condition. In fact, this was the first case in which he personally had given such a diagnosis. He was aware of only five commotio cordis diagnoses in 10 to 11 years at his previous place of employment in Detroit, Michigan. He was also aware that the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, in reviewing 565 cases of blunt force trauma to the chest, had diagnosed commotio cordis in only two of those cases.

I

The appellant argues that the State failed to negate the possibility that the victim's injury was caused by medical personnel attempting to revive the victim when that theory was made known to the State before trial. The appellant contends that the paramedics who arrived at...

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2 practice notes
  • Buskey v. State, CR-92-1155
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • August 19, 1994
    ...the care that would be exercised by a reasonable person in his situation." Commentary to Section 13A-6-4.' " Caldwell v. State, 615 So.2d 1280, 1282-83 (Ala.Crim.App.1993), quoting Kitsos v. State, 574 So.2d 979, 981-82 (Ala.Crim.App.1990) in turn quoting Phelps v. State, 435 So.2......
  • Mogil v. State, CR-15-0011.
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • December 16, 2016
    ...situation risked subjecting the animal to cruel mistreatment and that Mogil disregarded that risk. See Caldwell v. State, 615 So.2d 1280, 1283 (Ala. Crim. App. 1993) ("The reckless actor is aware of the risk and disregards it."). Accordingly, the issue of Mogil's guilt of the unde......
2 cases
  • Buskey v. State, CR-92-1155
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • August 19, 1994
    ...the care that would be exercised by a reasonable person in his situation." Commentary to Section 13A-6-4.' " Caldwell v. State, 615 So.2d 1280, 1282-83 (Ala.Crim.App.1993), quoting Kitsos v. State, 574 So.2d 979, 981-82 (Ala.Crim.App.1990) in turn quoting Phelps v. State, 435 So.2......
  • Mogil v. State, CR-15-0011.
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • December 16, 2016
    ...situation risked subjecting the animal to cruel mistreatment and that Mogil disregarded that risk. See Caldwell v. State, 615 So.2d 1280, 1283 (Ala. Crim. App. 1993) ("The reckless actor is aware of the risk and disregards it."). Accordingly, the issue of Mogil's guilt of the unde......

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