Mr. Rhodes (defendant) struck his wife, Elizabeth, three times with a switch that was about the size of his finger. Mr. Rhodes was indicted, or formally charged, with assault and battery by the State of North Carolina (plaintiff). The jury returned a special verdict, which is a jury verdict that makes specific findings of fact but does not apply the law or make a final determination as to liability or guilt. The special verdict found that Mr. Rhodes struck Elizabeth three times without provocation. The judge found that, based upon the facts provided by the special verdict, Mr. Rhodes was not guilty. The state appealed.