In other words, the circumstantial evidence, even if it supports an inference that Rex Nisbett did something to Vicki Nisbett and that Vicki Nisbett died as a result of that something, nonetheless wholly fails to prove the mens rea Rex Nisbett possessed when he did that something to Vicki Nisbett was the mens rea for murder, as opposed to some other mens rea, such as the mens rea for manslaughter. The jury‘s finding in this case that Rex Nisbett, with the requisite mens rea, committed an act clearly dangerous to human life that resulted in Vicki Nisbett‘s death or intentionally or knowingly caused Vicki Nisbett‘s death would be based on speculation and cannot support a finding of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. [Legal cites ommitted]
I was relieved to see the Court of Appeals use much of the same case law and reasoning to arrive at their judgment, relying on Stobaugh v. State, Megan Winfrey v. State, and others.
The case also presented some irony. Typically the State is organized to prove each element beyond a reasonable doubt. The case is organized through witnesses and documentary evidence to prove each and every element down to the intent, time, and location. The Defense on the other hand, often tries to distract away from the law, pulling at heart strings, exuding sympathy, and/or even fostering disdain for the law, but always concentrates on holding the state to their burden. However, in this case, it turned out to be our mission as the defense team to stay focused on the law and the State's burden of proving each and every element of the offense. In the end, the jury was swayed more by Rex' odd behavior than any evidence pointing to his guilt. The State could never decide what theory to push, whether it be choking, head injury, or some other theory because they simply did not have evidence of any of those that resulted in Ms. Nisbett's death. And even in the State's explanation of the case to this day, could they ever proffer anything but innuendo and guess work, all refuted by the Court's opinion.