MA CPJI §2.4.1 Self-Defense

MA CPJI §2.4.1 Self-Defense

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MA Superior Court Criminal Practice Jury Instructions-Criminal (2nd Edition, 2013)

MA CPJI §2.4.1. Self-Defense

Since this case raises a question whether the defendant properly used force to defend himself form an attack, I will provide you with instructions concerning the law governing the use of deadly force in self-defense before discussing the elements of the crime of murder.

A person is not guilty of any crime if he acted in proper self-defense. It is the Commonwealth’s burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not act in proper self-defense. The defendant does not have the burden to prove that he acted in proper self-defense. If the Commonwealth fails to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not act in proper self-defense, then you must find the defendant not guilt.

The law does not permit retaliation or revenge. The proper exercise of self-defense arises from necessity of the moment and ends when the necessity ends. An individual may only use sufficient force to prevent occurrence or reoccurrence of the attack. The question of what force is needed in self-defense, however, is to be considered with due regard for human impulses and passions, and is not to be judged too strictly.

The Commonwealth satisfies its burden of proving that the defendant did not act in proper self-defense if it proves any of the following four propositions beyond a reasonable doubt:

1. The defendant did not actually believe that he was in immediate danger of death or serious bodily harm from which eh could save himself only by using deadly force. Deadly force is force that is intended or likely to cause death or serious bodily harm.

2. A reasonable person in the same circumstances as the defendant would not reasonably have believed that he was in immediate danger of death or serious bodily harm from which he could save himself only by using deadly force.

3. The defendant did not use or attempt to use all proper and reasonable means under the circumstances to avoid physical combat before resorting to the use of deadly force.

4. The defendant used more force than was reasonably necessary under all the circumstances.

5. The defendant was the first to use or threaten deadly force, and did not withdraw in good faith from the conflict and announce to the person (or persons) he provoked his intention to withdraw and end the confrontation without any use of or additional use of force.

I will now detail each of these five propositions in more detail, and remind you that the Commonwealth may satisfy its burden of proving that the defendant did not act in proper self-defense by proving any one of these propositions beyond a reasonable doubt:

The first proposition is that the defendant did not actually believe that he was in immediate danger of death or serious bodily harm from which he could save himself only by using deadly force.

The second proposition is that a reasonable person in the same circumstances as the defendant would not reasonably have believed that he was in immediate danger of death or serious bodily harm from which he could save himself only by using deadly force.

In considering whether or not the defendant actually believed that he was in immediate danger of death or serious bodily harm, and the reasonableness of that belief that we was in such danger, you may consider all the circumstances bearing on the defendant’s state of mind at the time. Moreover, in determining whether the defendant was reasonably in fear of death or serious bodily harm you may consider any or all of the following:

evidence of the deceased’s reputation as a violent or quarrelsome person, but only if that reputation was known to the defendant;

evidence of other instances of the deceased’s violent conduct, but only if the defendant knew of such conduct; and

evidence of threats of violence made by the deceased against the defendant, but again, only if the defendant was aware of such threats.

You may consider the defendant’s mental condition at the time of the killing, including any credible evidence of mental impairment or the effect on the defendant of his consumption of alcohol or drugs, in determining whether the defendant actually believed that he was in immediate danger of serious bodily harm or death, but not in determining whether a reasonable person in those circumstances would have believed he was in immediate danger.

A person may use deadly force to defend himself even if he had a mistaken belief that he was in immediate danger of serious bodily harm or death provided that the defendant’s mistaken belief was reasonably based on all of the circumstances presented in this case.

The third proposition is that the defendant did not use or attempt to use all proper and reasonable means under the circumstances to avoid physical combat before resorting to the use of deadly force. Whether a defendant used all reasonable means to avoide physical combat before resorting to the use of deadly force depends on all of the circumstances, including the relative physical capabilities of the combatants, the weapons used, the availability of room to maneuver or escape from the area, and the location of the assault.

[For self-defense cases not under the “castle law,” G.L. c. 278, §8A.] A person must retreat unless he cannot do so in safety, or unless retreat would increase the danger to his own life.

[For self-defense cases under the “castle law,” G.L. c. 278, §8A.] A person who is lawfully residing in his house, apartment or some other dwelling is not required to retreat before using reasonable force against an unlawful intruder, if the resident reasonably believes that the intruder is about to kill or seriously injure him or another person lawfully in the dwelling, and also reasonably believes that such force is necessary to protect himself or the other person lawfully in the dwelling.

The fourth proposition is that the defendant used more force than was reasonably necessary under all the circumstances. In considering whether the force used by a person was reasonable under the circumstances, you may consider evidence of the relative physical capabilities of the combatants, the number of persons who were involved on each side, the characteristics of any weapons used, the availability of room to maneuver, the manner in which the deadly force was used, the scope of the threat presented, or any other factor you deem relevant to the reasonableness of the person’s conduct under the circumstances.

The fifth proposition is that the defendant was the first to use or threaten deadly force, and did not withdraw in good faith from the conflict and announce to the person (or persons) he provoked his intention to withdraw and end the confrontation without any use of or additional use of force.

The right of self-defense cannot be claimed by a defendant who was the first to sue or threaten deadly force, because a defendant must have used or attempted to use all proper and reasonable means under the circumstances to avoid physical combat before resorting to the use of deadly force. A defendant who provokes or initiates such a confrontation must withdraw in good faith from the conflict and announce to the person (or persons) he provoked his intention to withdraw and end the confrontation without the use of force or additional force. For the purpose of determining who attacked whom first in the altercation, you may consider evidence of the deceased’s [and a third party acting together with the deceased’s] past violent conduct, whether or not the defendant knew of it.

(a) Deadly or Nondeadly Force

Deadly force is force that is intended to or likely to cause death or serious bodily harm. Nondeadly force, by contrast, is force that is not intended to or likely to cause death or serious bodily harm. You must determine whether the Commonwealth has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant used deadly force. If you have a reasonable doubt whether the defendant used deadly force but are convinced that he used some force, then you must consider whether the defendant used nondeadly force in self-defense. If the defendant had reasonable grounds to believe he was in immediate danger of harm from which he could save himself only by using nondeadly force, and had availed himself of all reasonable means to avoid physical combat before resorting to nondeadly force, the tne defendant had the right to use the nondeadly force reasonably necessary to avert the threatened harm, but he could use no more force than was reasonable and proper under the circumstances. You must consider the proportionality of the force used to the threat of immediate harm in assessing the reasonableness of nondeadly force.

By | 2014-11-16T13:40:59+00:00 November 16th, 2014|Comments Off on MA CPJI §2.4.1 Self-Defense