TX 3:1780 Self-Defense May Not Prevent Accidental or Reckless Instructions
Texas Criminal Pattern Jury Instructions (TCPJI)
Chapter 3. Defenses & Special Evidentiary Charges
XXVII. SELF DEFENSE / DEFENSE OF THIRD PERSON / DEFENSE OF PROPERTY
3:1780 Self-Defense May Not Prevent Accidental or Reckless Instructions
Prior caselaw held that evidence that the accused acted in self-defense precludes an instruction on accident or recklessness because one cannot accidentally or recklessly act in self-defense. Avila v. State, 954 S.W.2d 830 (Tex.App.-El Paso 1997, pet. ref’d).
A recent case from the Court of Criminal Appeals calls into question this logic, saying, “there is nothing in Penal Code Section 2.03 or Chapter 9 that limits justification defenses to intentional or knowing crimes, nor do we have a reason to infer such a limitation.” Alonzo v. State, 353 S.W.3d 778 (Tex.Crim.App. 2011). “An assertion of a Chapter 9 justification defense is an assertion that the defendant’s actions were justified. An assertion that the defendant acted recklessly is an assertion that the defendant was aware of and consciously disregarded a substantial and unjustifiable risk in gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would have exercised in those same circumstances. A fact-finder therefore cannot find that a defendant acted recklessly and in self-defense. But that does not mean…that a defendant cannot argue self-defense when charged with an offense whose requisite mental state is recklessness. The opposite is true: by arguing self-defense, a defendant is arguing that his actions were justified, and therefore he did not act recklessly.” Id. at 782. The jury is asked to decide: did he act recklessly, or were his actions justified? The jury charge in Alonzo applied self-defense to the murder portion of Count 1 but not to the lesser-included offenses of manslaughter and aggravated assault. The Court of Criminal Appeals held: “The Court of Appeals erred by holding that a defendant can be convicted for a lesser-included offense when a fact-finder has acquitted the defendant for the greater offense based on a justification defense, and by holding that a defendant cannot raise the justification of self-defense when charged with manslaughter.” Id. at 783.