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State v. Fitzhugh

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: 12-26-2013
Case #: A145157
Wollheim, J. for the Court; Schuman, P.J.; and Nakamoto, J.
Full Text Opinion: http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/docs/A145157.pdf

Criminal Law: A "dependent person" under ORS 163.205(2)(b) is not limited to a person suffering from permanent or enduring disabilities.

Christopher Fitzhugh appealed his conviction for murder by abuse. One element of that crime requires the victim to be a "dependent person," which is defined in ORS 163.205(2)(b) as “a person who because of either age or a physical or mental disability is dependent upon another to provide for the person's physical needs." The victim was Fitzhugh’s girlfriend, whom Fitzhugh assaulted, and caused injuries that left her incapacitated for several days and ultimately led to her death. Fitzhugh did not seek medical help until very shortly before her death. If he had sought care earlier, she likely would have lived. On appeal, Fitzhugh argued that his girlfriend was not a “dependent person” because she did not have a physical disability within the meaning of ORS 163.205(2)(b) since that term is limited to sustained or permanent conditions, not transitory injuries that temporary reliance. The Court of Appeals defined the term “physical disability” as not limited to permanent or enduring disabilities. Here, a jury could have  inferred that the victim had a physical disability that left her completely reliant on Fitzhugh for at least two days before she died. Such a finding would establish that the victim was a “dependent person” during that period of time. Affirmed.