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State v. Quist

Supreme Court of South Dakota

March 28, 2018

STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA, Plaintiff and Appellee,
v.
BRADLEY DAVIS QUIST, Defendant and Appellant.

          CONSIDERED ON BRIEFS FEBRUARY 12, 2018

          APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE FIFTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT BROWN COUNTY, SOUTH DAKOTA, THE HONORABLE RICHARD A. SOMMERS Judge.

          MARTY J. JACKLEY Attorney General PATRICIA ARCHER Assistant Attorney General Pierre, South Dakota Attorneys for plaintiff and appellee.

          THOMAS J. COGLEY of Ronayne & Cogley, P.C. Aberdeen, South Dakota CHRISTOPHER D. DOHRER Aberdeen, South Dakota Attorneys for defendant and appellant.

          ZINTER, JUSTICE.

         [¶1.] Bradley Quist appeals from a final judgment of conviction for second-degree murder. He argues the circuit court erred in: (1) failing to dismiss the indictment; (2) denying his motion for judgment of acquittal; and (3) admitting autopsy photographs into evidence. We affirm.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶2.] On the night of May 30, 2015, Quist was drinking with his self-described best friend, Ron Witchey, at a bar in Aberdeen. Quist was 55 and Witchey was 61 years of age. Both men consumed several drinks, and although Quist paid for many of them, Witchey ran out of money and asked Quist for a loan. Quist was frustrated with Witchey's failure to repay a prior loan, and Witchey's additional request angered Quist and resulted in an argument.

         [¶3.] At some point during the evening, Quist indicated he was going to assault Witchey. This led Witchey to ask two other men for help in the event that Quist tried to start a fight. Those men, however, left the bar around 12:41 a.m. on May 31, leaving Quist and Witchey behind.

         [¶4.] The actual incident occurred approximately 30 minutes later and was recorded by surveillance video. The video showed that at 1:12 a.m., Quist left the bar to smoke a cigarette. Approximately two minutes later, Witchey came out, passed in front of Quist, and started walking down the sidewalk away from Quist and the bar. While Witchey's back was turned, Quist jogged up behind him and struck him with enough force to dislodge Witchey's hat. Witchey turned and Quist struck him again, knocking him to the ground. While Witchey was lying on his side, Quist kicked Witchey in the head. Quist then leaned towards Witchey's face, and as Witchey raised his arm in either a plea to stop or to protect himself, Quist kicked Witchey in the face again. After shaking his finger at Witchey, Quist then punched Witchey in the face, a blow that rendered his body limp and motionless. Before walking away, Quist lingered around Witchey's body and kicked him in the buttocks three more times.

         [¶5.] Law enforcement arrived, and bar employees identified Quist as the assailant. When questioned by police, Quist admitted he had been frustrated with Witchey's failure to repay loans. In Quist's words, he was "tired of [Witchey] taking advantage of [him]." However, Quist downplayed the number of times he struck Witchey and the force he used. He also claimed he had acted in self-defense but admitted "[he] did quite a bit more damage than [he] intended to do." Quist finally claimed that Witchey had "played possum" in the incident, and Quist denied striking Witchey when he was on the ground. Inconsistently, however, Quist admitted "[he] mighta given a 50 percent kick, once." Later, Quist also told an acquaintance that he used much more force than he had disclosed to police. He told the acquaintance he had "kicked [Witchey] in the head like he was lining up a field goal, and as hard as he could kick him."

         [¶6.] Witchey died on May 31, 2015, and an autopsy was performed that same day in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Dr. Mark Koponen, a forensic pathologist, observed bruising, abrasions, and lacerations on Witchey's face. Dr. Koponen determined that the cause of death was a massive subarachnoid hemorrhage caused by a laceration of the vertebral artery. Dr. Koponen testified that this type of injury was classically caused by a blow to the chin or face where the head snaps back abruptly. Quist's forensic pathologist agreed with Dr. Koponen's opinions as to the cause of death. Witchey's body was returned to the Brown County Coroner in Aberdeen on the day of the autopsy. The coroner then released the body to Witchey's family, and they had it cremated shortly thereafter.[1]

         [¶7.] Quist was arrested and charged with first-degree manslaughter the day after Witchey's death. In a superseding indictment, a grand jury charged Quist with second-degree murder. The jury found Quist guilty, and he now appeals raising three issues:

1. Whether the circuit court erred in denying his motion to dismiss the indictment on the ground that he was not given notice of the coroner's release of the body, which deprived him of the ...

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