SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Court of Appeals has upheld the conviction of a man sent to prison for a 2008 attack involving a knife and a medieval battle ax.
Cody Jesse Augustine, 25, argued that the jury that convicted him of attempted murder with injury, a first-degree felony, in 2011 should have been allowed to hear an expert testify in support of his claim that he was suffering from extreme emotional distress at the time of the attack. He also questioned one of the jury instructions and whether his co-defendant should have taken the stand even though the man had said he would not testify.
In a ruling released Friday, the Utah Court of Appeals sided with the trial court and upheld Augustine's conviction.
According to testimony at trial, Augustine began to suspect he may have contracted a sexually transmitted disease. He informed the girl he had been seeing and she told him she had another sexual partner who may have given her the disease.
Augustine said he was worried, approaching panic, and became distraught to the point that he, Scott Stapley, and his then-girlfriend decided to head to the Kearns home of then-17-year-old Justin Ennis.
When they arrived, Augustine said at trial he planned to exchange words and perhaps a few blows. He said he didn't know that Stapley followed him out of the vehicle when they arrived at Ennis' home, much less that his friend was toting a four-blade battle ax.
He said he struggled with Ennis and even landed a few blows before Ennis broke free. Then, he saw Ennis and Stapley in a struggle. Augustine acknowledged that he chased Ennis down and stabbed him. Augustine was ultimately sentenced to three years to life in prison.
The appellate court determined that it was not convinced the man was even entitled to use the extreme emotional distress claim at all.
"The triggering stressors that Augustine enumerates are largely self‐imposed," Judge James Davis wrote. "Augustine went to (Ennis') house looking for a fight. Thus, the ensuing fight and adrenaline spiking are products of his own behavior."
The court also felt the jury instruction was adequate and that Stapley invoking his 5th amendment right not to testify at trial was not a violation of Augustine's constitutional rights. Stapley was also convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to three years to life in prison.
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