ST. GEORGE — An Iron County man is in jail following an alleged assault that resulted in injuries so specific he was originally booked into jail on a mayhem charge.
Chavis Dino Blackhorse, 31, of Cedar City, was arrested on a warrant issued when the suspect failed to comply with a sentencing order involving a case filed in May, in which Blackhorse was arrested and booked on second-degree felony mayhem, third-degree felony aggravated assault committed with force-violence to injure, along with misdemeanor intoxication charge.
He later pleaded guilty to misdemeanor attempted aggravated assault and intoxication and was placed on probation.
In that case, deputies with the Iron County Sheriff’s Office were dispatched to investigate a report of two men fighting on the C-Trail, a downhill trail that winds down the face of Cedar Mountain bordering Dixie National Forest. Witnesses also reported that one of the men was bleeding heavily from the face.
Upon arrival, officers first encountered Blackhorse, who appeared intoxicated, and asked him where the second man reported by witnesses had gone.
The suspect allegedly told police there was no second man. Blackhorse was detained while officers began searching for the injured individual.
They found the man just east of the trail, bleeding heavily from the face. As they hiked the man down the hill, they noted he had a severe laceration to the left nostril, as well as a deep cut that went from the bottom of the nose to the top of his upper lip. He had severe swelling in the face and other cuts and scrapes on his face, according to charging documents filed with the court.
Two witnesses who were out hiking at the time told police they saw the man earlier, and he “was not bloody,” the officer noted in the report. The witnesses went on to say that as they continued their hike, they saw the suspect “beating on the victim” with his fists, the bag the suspect had with him, “and potentially a rock.”
During an interview with the suspect at the Iron County Sheriff’s Office, Blackhorse reportedly denied hitting the man, telling officers he tripped, an account that did not match statements provided by the injured man who said they were fighting near the top of the hill.
Officers also noted the man had “only fresh injuries to his face,” while Blackhorse had blood on his hands and knuckles. They also noted that most of the damage to the man was to the left side of his face, and while he was in custody, officers noted that Blackhorse was right-handed.
The officer submitted the mayhem charge due to the laceration of the man’s nostril and lip area, as well as aggravated assault for causing bodily injury to another and intoxication. Additionally, officers later determined that the injured man was related to the suspect.
Iron County Sheriff’s Lt. Del Schlosser said the mayhem charge is not used very often. In this case, he said it was added by the deputy since the suspect allegedly beat the man to the point that his left nostril became partially detached from his nose.
Mayhem charge — a journey from 15th century England to Utah
The history behind the mayhem charge is extensive and goes back to a 15th century English common law crime. It sprang from cases in which a witnesses’ eyes or tongue were cut out to prevent them from testifying in court, according to FindLaw.
The law was based on the premise that “he that maimed any man whereby he lost any part of his body was sentenced to lose the like part,” a punishment the court found could not be repeated in cases when it came to “an eye for an eye,” for example, which would require that a man’s eye be cut out as punishment. This didn’t seem to go over very well with the English court system at the time, so it was changed to a fine and imprisonment instead.
Two hundred years later, changes were made to the statute that laid the foundation for the modern-day charge, changes that arose out of an incident whereby Sir John Coventry’s nose was slit because of “obnoxious words uttered by him in Parliament” in 1670. However, his nose was not cut off, so they had to make modifications to the law through the Coventry Act.
In the U.S., the mayhem charge is nearly identical to the 1670 act and pertains to cases in which either the tongue is cut out or disabled, an eye is put out, a nose is slit, a lip is cut off, or any other limb or member of a person that is cut off or disabled.
In Utah, the law was enacted in 1973 and states that anyone who “unlawfully and intentionally deprives a human being of a member of his body, or disables or renders it useless, or who cuts out or disables the tongue, puts out an eye, or slits the nose, ear or lip is guilty of mayhem,” which is a second-degree felony.
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