SC J I Cr § 6-11 Self Defense – Mutual Combat

State: Jury Instruction Number:

South Carolina Requests to Charge – Criminal (2018)


§ 6-11 Self Defense – Mutual Combat

If the defendant voluntarily participated in mutual combat for purposes other than protection, he cannot justify or excuse the [killing] [injury] of the victim in the course of such conflict on the ground of self-defense, regardless of what extremity or imminent peril he may be reduced to in the progress of the combat, unless, before the [killing] [injury] was committed, he withdrew and endeavored in good faith to decline further conflict, and, either by word or act, made that fact known to the victim.

Mutual combat exists when there is mutual intent and willingness to fight. Mutual intent is manifested by the acts and conduct of the parties and the circumstances attending and leading up to the combat. Further, it must be shown that both parties were armed with a deadly weapon. Mutual combat bars a claim of self-defense because it negates the element of not being at fault. The mutual combat doctrine is triggered when both parties contribute to the resulting fight. Self-defense is available only when the defendant is without fault in bringing on the difficulty.

Because mutual combat requires mutual intent and willingness to fight, if a defendant is found to have been involved in mutual combat, the “no fault” element of self-defense cannot be established. Mutual combat acts as a bar to self-defense because it requires mutual agreement to fight on equal terms for purposes other than protection.

If the defendant is engaged in mutual combat, self-defense is unavailable unless the defendant withdraws from the conflict before the [killing] [injury] occurs. If, before the [killing] [injury] occurs, the defendant withdrew and tried in good faith to avoid further conflict, and either by word or act, made that fact known to the victim, he would be without fault in bringing on the difficulty. Thus, if after commencing an assault or initiating an encounter, the defendant withdrew in good faith from the conflict and announced in some way to his adversary his intention to retire, he is restored to his right of self-defense, so that if his adversary then pursues him, the defendant may, upon a reasonable belief that he is in danger, injure or kill his adversary. Such communication to the adversary of withdrawal by the defendant may be explicit and verbal, by the use of words, or may be implicit in conduct, such as retiring or attempting to retire from the scene and abandoning the conflict.