Argued: April 9, 2019
Remanded for further proceedings to dismiss Count 4. David
Paris, Esq. (orally), Bath, for appellant Christopher Todd
Kathryn L. Slattery, District Attorney, and Kyle M. Myska,
Asst. Dist. Atty. (orally), Prosecutorial District 1, Alfred,
for appellee State of Maine
SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and
The jury in this case was presented with evidence that
Christopher Todd Hall, angry about the results of a court
proceeding involving his children, lured the woman who had
served as the guardian ad litem in that matter to a
house-under false pretenses and disguised with a gray wig and
a walker- where he attacked the woman with a cane that had a
stun device in its handle, in an attempt to kidnap her. Hall
now appeals from the judgment of conviction entered by the
court (York County, Delahanty, J.) after the jury
found him guilty of aggravated assault (Class B), 17-A M.R.S.
§ 208(1)(B) (2018); assault (Class C), 17-A M.R.S.
§§ 207(1)(A), 1252(4-A) (2018); and attempted
kidnapping with the intent to hold for ransom or reward
(Class B), 17-A M.R.S. §§ 152(1)(B), 301(1)(A)(1),
We are asked to construe several statutes to determine
whether the court erred in its instructions to the jury and
whether there was sufficient evidence for the jury to find,
beyond a reasonable doubt, every element of each of the
crimes of which Hall was convicted. We affirm the judgment
and remand only for further action by the State and the court
to dismiss a fourth count on which the parties intended a
dismissal after the court declared a mistrial.
Viewed in the light most favorable to the verdicts, the jury
could rationally have found the following facts beyond a
reasonable doubt. See State v. Hansley, 2019 ME 35,
¶ 2, 203 A.3d 827. On the evening of October 8, 2015,
Hall used a woman's voice when he repeatedly called a
professional mediator to lure her to a house in Arundel under
the pretext of hiring her to mediate a family dispute. Hall
was upset with the mediator, who had, years earlier, served
as guardian ad litem in a matter involving Hall's family.
Hall had spoken to a friend about a plan to kidnap people
involved in that matter using an electric shock device so
that he could extort money from them and use the money to
leave the country with his children and their mother.
When the mediator arrived at the house in Arundel, Hall was
disguised as an elderly man; he wore a wig and blazer and
used a walker and cane. He stood behind his van, which was
parked in the driveway, and he gestured for her to park next
to the van. Hall had a friend in the van who, by that point,
had moved to the driver's seat. When the mediator opened
the door to her car and swung her legs out, Hall attacked her
with a cane that had a stun device in its handle capable of
delivering an electric charge measuring up to 2, 000 volts.
He placed the cane between her legs, activated it one or more
times, and put it in contact with her legs multiple times as
she screamed and kicked. Leaning into the car, he tried to
cover her mouth to prevent her screaming, and she grabbed the
wig off his head, kicking until he took the wig and fled.
Hall got into the passenger side of his van at the end of the
driveway, his friend having already driven it toward the
road, and he fled the premises with his friend.
In December 2015, Hall was charged by indictment with
aggravated assault (Class B), 17-A M.R.S. § 208(1)(B);
assault (Class C), 17-A M.R.S. §§ 2 07(1) (A),
1252(4-A); and two counts of attempted kidnapping-one
count for attempted kidnapping with the intent to hold for
ransom or reward (Class B), 17-A M.R.S. §§
152(1)(B), 301(1)(A)(1), 301(3), and one count for attempted
kidnapping by secreting and holding the victim in a place
where she was not likely to be found (Class B), 17-A M.R.S.
§§ 152(1)(B), 301(1)(B)(2), 301(3) (2018).
At Hall's jury trial in 2018, Hall chose to represent
himself, but he had two attorneys acting as standby counsel.
The mediator testified regarding the events at issue as well
as her injuries and recovery, including the effect of the
attack on her mental health. The State offered testimony from
several witnesses, including a detective from the York County
Sheriff's Office who testified about the stun cane device
he had recovered using information provided by the person who
had driven Hall's van on the night of the alleged
Hall presented the testimony of several witnesses and his own
testimony denying that he intended to kidnap the victim but
expounding about how she and others had "stolen"
his children based on lies. He also testified that the
voltage of the stun cane device was not deadly; that the back
of his van had been full of items such that he could not have
fit a person inside; that he had worn a gray wig and carried
the cane but had also used a walker as "a barrier so
that she could never say that [he] went into her space";
and that the victim had come at him with an open hand and
tried to kick him, resulting in the marks on her legs.
The court's jury instructions included statutory
definitions of two terms at issue here. The definition of
"bodily injury" was provided because that term is
part of the definitions of assault and aggravated assault.
See 17'-A M.R.S. § 2(5) (2018); see
also id. § 207(1)(A) ("A person is guilty of
assault if... [t]he person intentionally, knowingly or
recklessly causes bodily injury or offensive
physical contact to another person." (emphasis added));
id. § 208(1)(B) ("A person is guilty of
aggravated assault if that person intentionally, knowingly or
recklessly causes ... [b]odily injury to another
with use of a dangerous weapon." (emphasis added)).
The definition of "serious bodily injury" was also
provided because the aggravated assault statute employs the
term "use of a dangerous weapon," which is defined
as "use of a firearm or other weapon, device,
instrument, material or substance, whether animate or
inanimate, which, in the manner it is used or threatened to
be used is capable of producing death or serious bodily
injury." 17-A M.R.S. § 2(9)(A), (23) (2018)
(emphasis added); see also id. § 208(1)(B)
("A person is guilty of aggravated assault if that
person intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes ...
[b]odily injury to another with use of a dangerous
weapon." (emphasis added)).
At the end of the court's instructions to the jury, Hall
requested an additional instruction concerning the definition
of "serious bodily injury." Id. §
2(23). Specifically, he asked the court to instruct the jury
that the definition of "serious bodily injury,"
which includes "bodily injury . . . which causes . . .
extended convalescence necessary for recovery of
physical health," id. (emphasis
added), precludes extended convalescence necessary for
recovery of mental or emotional health. The court
denied the request, concluding that its instruction had been
complete and consistent with the statute.
During deliberations, the jury sent a note asking for further
definition of "serious bodily injury," including as
to the meaning of "extended convalescence necessary for
the recovery of physical health," and for instruction as
to whether the use of any weapon would warrant a
conviction of aggravated assault. Id. The court
repeated the pertinent statutory definitions and informed the
jury that it should rely on common sense in determining
whether the conduct at issue met those definitions. It also
instructed the jury, based on our interpretation of
"extended convalescence" in State v.
Bowman, 611 A.2d 560, 562 (Me. 1992), that, although no
specific duration was provided in statute, convalescence
meant "a gradual return to health after an injury or
illness, or a period of time that is required ... to regain
your health." Hall objected to this instruction before
and after it was delivered and argued that physical health
should have been distinguished from mental or emotional
health. The court overruled his objections.
Later, the jury reported that it was having difficulty
reaching a verdict on the fourth count, namely, attempted
kidnapping with the intent to secret and hold the victim in a
place where she was not likely to be found, but it had
reached verdicts on the first three counts. The State and
Hall agreed that the jury could deliver its verdicts on the
first three counts and then the court would, if the jury
found Hall guilty of the attempted kidnapping charge alleged
in Count 3, declare a mistrial on Count 4. The jury ...