Jury Instructions and Self defense

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Jury Instructions and Self defense Ė A Review

 Self-defense is another often used defense. In certain crimes, the prosecution has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was not acting in self-defense. The law recognizes the right of a person to use force or even take a life in defense of his own person under certain circumstances. When a person acts in lawful self-defense, such actions are excused and the defendant is not guilty of any crime. Even if the defendantís perceptions of the incident at hand are false and he was mistaken as to the extent of the real danger, he is to be judged by the circumstances as they appeared to him at the time of the act. The following criminal jury instructions can be given on self- defense.

 CJI2d 7.20 Burden of Proof -Self Defense

The defendant does not have to prove that [he/she] acted in self-defense. Instead, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not act in self-defense.

 For every crime there is a defense which will justify finding a defendant not guilty.  Some of these defenses are as follows:

 CJI2d7.5 Use of Deadly Force in Self Defense

 (1) The defendant claims that (he / she] acted in lawful self defense. A person has the right to use force or even, take a life to defend (himself/herself) under certain circumstances. If a person acts in lawful self‑defense, [his / her] actions are excused and [he / she] is not guilty of any crime.

(2) You should consider all the evidence and use the following rules to decide whether the defendant acted in lawful self‑defense. Remember to judge the defendantís conduct according to how the circumstances appeared to [him / her] at the time [he / she] acted.

 (3) First, at the time [he / she] acted, the defendant must have honestly and reasonably believed that [he / she] was in danger of being [killed / seriously injured / forcibly sexually penetrated]. If [his / her] belief was honest and reasonable, (he / she) could act immediately to defend [himself / herself] even if it turned out later that (he / she) was wrong about how much danger [he / she] was in. In deciding if the defendantís belief was honest and reasonable, you should consider all the circumstances as they appeared to the defendant at the time. (Perception is reality at the time)

 (4) Second, a person may not kill or seriously injure another person just to protect (himself / herself) against what seems like a threat of only minor injury. The defendant must have been afraid of [death / serious physical injury /forcible sexual penetration]. When you decide if the defendant was afraid of one or more of these, you should consider all the circumstances: (the condition of the people involved, including their relative strength / whether the other person was armed with a dangerous weapon or had some other means of injuring the defendant / the nature of the other personís attack or threat / whether the defendant knew about any previous violent acts or threats made by the other person). (Disparity of force and Prior knowledge)

 (5) Third, at the time [he / she] acted, the defendant must have honestly and reasonably believed that what (he / she] did was immediately necessary. Under the law, a person may only use as much force as (he / she) thinks is necessary at the time to protect ( himself / herself ). When you decide whether the amount of force used seemed to be necessary, you may consider whether the defendant knew about any other ways of protecting [himself / herself), but you may also consider how the excitement of the moment affected the choice the defendant made.

 CJI 2d 7.17 No duty to retreat while in Own Dwelling.

 If a person (assaulted the defendant in the defendantís own home / forcibly entered the defendantís home), the defendant did not have to try to retreat or get away. Under those circumstances, the defendant could stand (his / her] ground and resist the [attack / intrusion] with as much force as [he / she] honestly and reasonably believed necessary at the time to protect (himself / herself).

 CJI2d 7.16 Duty to Retreat to Avoid Using Deadly Force  

(1) By law, a person must avoid using deadly force if (he / she) can safely do so. If the defendant could have safely retreated but did not do so, you can consider that fact, along with all the other circumstances, when you decide whether (he / she] went farther in protecting [himself / herself) than [he / she] should have.

 (2) However, if the defendant honestly and reasonably believed that it was immediately necessary to use deadly force to protect [himself / herself ] from an imminent threat of   [death / serious injury / forcible sexual penetration ] the law does not require (him / her) to retreat. (He / She) may stand (his / her) ground and use the amount of force (he/ she) believes necessary to protect (himself / herself).

 Use Note Use CJI 2d 7.17 if the act occurred in the defendantís dwelling or in inhabited buildings within its cartilage; in those situations, do not use this instruction.

Commentary / case law

 If the defendant has the option of retreating to a place of safety, he or she normally must exercise that option. The Supreme Court stated the rule in People v Stallworth, 364 Mich 528, 535111 NW2d 742 (1961), quoting Pond v People 8 Mich 150,176 (1860).

 Self‑defense, however, requires a showing that the defendant had done ďall which is reasonably in his power to avoid the necessity of extreme resistance, by retreating where retreat Is safeĒ .. A man is not obliged to retreat if assaulted in his dwelling.

 CJI 2d 7.23 Past Violence by complainant or Decedent

 Specific Acts

(1) There has been evidence that the (complainant / decedent) may have committed violent acts in the past and that the defendant knew about these acts. You may consider this evidence when you decide weather the defendant honestly and reasonably feared for (his / her) safety.

[General Reputation]

(2) There has been evidence that the (complainant / decedent) may have had a reputation for cruelty or violence. You may consider this evidence when you decide whether it was likely the (complainant / decedent) threatened to hurt the defendant physically, and whether the defendant honestly and reasonably feared for (his / her) safety.

 CJI 2d 7.19 Non deadly Aggressor Assaulted with Deadly Force

A defendant who [assaults someone else with fists or a weapon that is not deadly / insults someone with words / trespasses on someone elseís property / tries to take some one elseís property in a nonviolent way] does not lose all right to self‑defense by doing so. If someone else assaults [him / her] with deadly force, the defendant may lawfully act in self‑defense.

CJI 2d 7.18 Deadly Aggressor‑Withdrawal (A person who started an assault on someone else could [under certain circumstances] use force to save [himself / herself] from immediate physical harm.)

A person who started an assault on someone else with deadly force / with a dangerous or deadly weapon cannot claim that (he / she) acted in self‑defense unless (he / she) genuinely stopped fighting (his / her) assault and clearly let the other person know that (the / she) wanted to make peace. Then, if the other person kept on fighting or started fighting again later, the defendant had the same right to defend (himself herself) as anyone else and could use force to save ( himself / herself ) from immediate physical harm.

 Commentary / Case law

A defendant who was initially the aggressor may still claim self‑ defense if he decided to withdraw from the conflict and communicated that withdrawal to the other person.

 CJI 2d 7.21 Defense of Others ‑ Deadly Force

(1) The defendant claims that (he/she) acted lawfully to defend another person has the right to use force or even take a life to defend someone else under certain circumstances. If a person acts in lawful defense of another, (his/her) actions are excused and (he/she) is not guilty of any crime.  (You may defend another person as you would yourself)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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