Intent is actually a little bit easier in these cases than assault and battery because the defendant has usually caused serious harm to another. Meaning they’ve wounded them, they’ve cut them, they’ve stabbed them, they’ve shot them. When you have one of those injuries, it is a little easier to show that the person intended to cause those injuries.
In Virginia, there is a maxim of law that judges and juries are guided by that states that a person intends the natural and probable consequences of their act.
Meaning, if I angrily swing a fist at your face it can be inferred that I intended to hit you and if your jaw is broken, it can be inferred I intended to do that as well. The same goes for stabbing or shooting someone. This inference can be overcome by other evidence showing that the defendant actually didn’t intend the actions, but still, this maxim of law is used by prosecutors to prove intent.
Intent can also be proven by a defendant’s statements. Obviously, if when speaking to police the defendant says, “Yeah, I stabbed him because he had it coming to him”, that statement will be used against the defendant to show his or her intent. That’s probably the best evidence of intent since it is the closest approximation to what was going through the person’s mind at the time of the offense.
Circumstances surrounding the offense, such as the defendant’s behavior before and after the incident will be used to prove intent. For example, if the defendant fled the scene immediately afterwards, prosecutors will use that to suggest he was trying to avoid police. Or if before the incident he or she was pacing back and forth and smashing his fist into his palm—that can be used to show that he intended what happened next.
Refuting evidence can come from many places and varies from cases to case. One good way to refute evidence is by presenting other eye witnesses who saw it a different way than the prosecution alleges. This is best if there are eye witnesses to the incident who have no allegiance or bias to anyone involved.
A videotape is another way to refute a story. A videotape is usually a much better representation of what actually occurred, because it isn’t skewed by bias, alcohol, or poor memory.
Showing that the person accused acted in self-defense is another way a defense attorney can refute the charges. Self-defense is very explicitly defined in Virginia law (pdf), and a knowledgeable defense attorney can help put forth that defense in accordance with the law.
Sometime the defense is simply to get the charge reduced to an Assault or Assault and Battery because the victim has exaggerated the injuries.
Another way to refute the charges is to point out inconsistencies or exaggerations on the part of the alleged victim. Showing that they are biased, or have a motive to lie, or are simply mistaken as to what happened, can all help to refute the Commonwealth’s case.