Oxendine v. State
Supreme Court of Delaware
528 A.2d 870 (1987)
Jeffrey Oxendine (defendant) lived with his girlfriend, Leotha Tyree, and six-year-old son. On January 18, 1984, Tyree pushed the child into the bathtub, causing his stomach to hemorrhage. The next morning, Oxendine beat his son, causing the child’s stomach to hemorrhage again. The child’s abdomen swelled later that day and he stopped breathing. He died shortly afterwards. Oxendine and Tyree were charged with manslaughter. As part of its case-in-chief, the State (plaintiff) called medical examiners Dr. Inguito and Dr. Hameli to the stand. They both agreed that the child had suffered two distinct injuries, the first attributable to Tyree and the second attributable to Oxendine. Dr. Inguito testified it was possible that both injuries contributed to the child’s death, but was unable to determine which injury actually caused his death. Dr. Inguito did not discuss whether the second injury accelerated the child’s death. Dr. Hameli testified that the first injury was lethal and was the cause of death. He stated that the second injury could have contributed to the child’s death, but he was unable to state with medical certainty whether the second injury accelerated the time of the child’s death. After the State made its case, Oxendine moved for a judgment of acquittal. The Superior Court denied his motion. Subsequently, Tyree called another medical examiner, Dr. Hofman, who testified that if a child suffered two separate instances of blunt force trauma to his abdomen, the second instance would accelerate the child’s death. At the close of trial, Oxendine again moved for a judgment of acquittal. The trial court denied the motion. On the issue of causation, the trial court instructed the jury that Oxendine’s conduct could be the cause-in-fact of the child’s death if it caused the child to die any sooner than he otherwise would have. The jury convicted Oxendine of manslaughter. Oxendine appealed, arguing that his motion for judgment of acquittal should have been granted because the State failed to produce sufficient evidence in its case-in-chief to prove Oxendine’s conduct accelerated the child’s death.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Horsey, J.)
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