Jury Accepts Self-Defense Claim

Defendant was falsely accused by his 19-year-old son of Assault with Bodily Injury. We argued that this was a case of Self-Defense. The Deputies had made a mistake and we needed to show that to the jury. When the Deputies pull up, they see Defendant’s son outside the house with a bloody nose. He is complaining that his father physically assaulted him. The Deputies talk to both father and son and arrest father for being the first aggressor.

This was a self-defense case. The Deputies spent less than 30 minutes talking to the parties. They made a quick decision and tried to stabilize the situation. But deciding that Defendant was the first aggressor was a mistake. At trial, the prosecutor played a short recording for the jury. The recording has the Defendant admitting to slapping his son. However, on cross-examination the defense played a later part of the same recording. That part had father stating his son attacked him first. After playing the recording, the Deputy admitted he got it wrong.

The Deputies also admitted that they knew nothing about the parties’ history. The defense spent a considerable amount of time showing that violence began more than 2 and-a-half years earlier. The son’s aggression toward father had continued to escalate with greater frequency and intensity over the years. Son exhibited signs of rage and had uncontrolled temper tantrums. Defendant and his wife took son to seek professional counseling but it didn’t help. As the violence continued, Defendant feared that his son would lash out at any moment. Defendant had a photograph showing his injuries from the encounter. The son never showed up for trial. The jury returned a Not Guilty Verdict in less than 25 minutes.

We used scaled questions to pick our jury. On one question, a juror responded with a “3” indicating that she could not entirely follow the court’s instructions. When we challenged the juror for cause the judge was hesitant to strike her. After a follow-up question or two the judge agreed that this juror could not follow the law and removed her for cause. During the charge conference, the judge allowed an instruction on “Apparent Danger” in addition to the “Reasonable Belief” definition that normally accompanies self-defense instructions. This was justified by the long history of violence perpetrated by the son against the defendant and others. The judge also granted a request for a “Stand Your Ground” instruction.

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