HELENA – The Montana Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the aggravated assault conviction of a former professional boxer who beat a man so severely the victim needed four titanium plates implanted in his face.
A five-judge panel unanimously rejected all of John Dunfee’s challenges to his guilty verdict. Four of the five judges agreed the judge properly considered Dunfee’s past scrapes with the law in sentencing him to the custody of the Corrections Department for three years.
Dunfee, 46, was convicted for his role in an August 2003 street fight in Butte.
He and William Pesanti had exchanged words about an earlier confrontation between Dunfee and Pesanti’s daughter. Witnesses said they saw Dunfee punching Pesanti numerous times in the face, and Dunfee acknowledged he had done so, but in self defense.
Pesanti lost two teeth and had broken bones in his face that required surgery and addition of the metal plates.
Dunfee, now on parole in Billings, raised several issues on appeal.
The Supreme Court ruled against his contention that he deserved a new trial because one of the jurors failed to reveal he had been assaulted once by Dunfee’s brother. Contrary to Dunfee’s claim, the juror hid nothing because no one asked him a question that required him to reveal the incident, the court said.
In addition, Dunfee failed to prove that having that man on the jury prevented a fair trial, the court said.
Likewise, the court found no fault with the jury seeing enlarged color photos showing the damage done to Pesanti’s face. The pictures were necessary to show the injuries qualified as serious bodily injury, a necessary element of the crime for which Dunfee was charged, Justice John Warner said for the court.
“The photographs, while unpleasant to look at, were not so inflammatory that we must determine the District Court abused its discretion in allowing the jury to view them,” he wrote.
The court also said it found plenty of evidence to justify the filing of the charge and the conviction, and that the judge correctly considered past actions by Dunfee even though they never resulted in arrests or convictions.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox
Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.