State v. Oddis, 2014 N.H. LEXIS 23 (NH Supreme Court 2014)

State of New Hampshire v. Jusiah Oddis

No. 2012-0869


2014 N.H. LEXIS 23

January 13, 2014, Issued

HICKS, CONBOY and BASSETT, JJ., concurred.


The defendant, Jusiah Oddis, appeals his conviction for first degree assault, see RSA 631:1 (2007), following a jury trial in superior court. The defendant contends that the trial court erred by: (1) failing to instruct the jury on the use of deadly force in defense of another, see RSA 627:4, II(a) (2007); (2) precluding him from arguing defense of another in his closing argument; and (3) instructing the jury that it could not consider any form of self-defense in its deliberations. We reverse and remand.

We review the trial court’s decision not to give a jury instruction for an unsustainable exercise of discretion. State v. Noucas, 165 N.H. 146, 154, 70 A.3d 476 (2013). The trial court must grant a defendant’s requested jury instruction on a specific defense if there is some evidence to support a rational finding in favor of that defense. State v. Furgal, 164 N.H. 430, 436 n.2, 58 A.3d 648 (2012). By “some evidence,” we mean that there must be more than a minutia or scintilla of evidence. State v. Vassar, 154 N.H. 370, 373, 910 A.2d 1193 (2006). In reviewing the trial court’s refusal to give a requested self-defense instruction, we search the record for evidence supporting the defendant’s request. Id.

A person is justified in using deadly force against another if he reasonably believes that person is about to use unlawful deadly force against himself or a third person. RSA 627:4, II(a). A belief that is unreasonable, even though honest, will not support the defense. Vassar, 154 N.H. at 374. When evidence of self-defense is admitted, conduct negating the defense becomes an element of the charged offense, which the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt. State v. Santamaria, 145 N.H. 138, 141, 756 A.2d 589 (2000).

In this case, based upon our review of the evidence, we conclude that there was “some evidence” that the defendant reasonably believed the victim was about to use deadly force against his common-law wife and child. The record includes evidence of the following facts: The defendant and the victim had been quarreling for two days. The day before the stabbing, the victim’s girlfriend told the defendant that she could have him killed. After this threat, the victim telephoned the defendant multiple times and threatened him. The following day, the defendant called the victim and told him that he was going to kill the victim, his girlfriend, and his child. The victim then called the defendant three times and threatened him. He told the defendant that he was coming to the defendant’s home to “beat his ass.” The victim’s uncle drove the victim and his brother to the defendant’s house. The vehicle came “flying” up the drive, and “sped up towards” the defendant. The defendant thought that the vehicle was going to run him down. The three men in the vehicle were all large, and they all got out of the vehicle. The victim accosted the defendant, and his uncle was within inches of the defendant. Although the defendant was brandishing a knife, the victim continued to approach him and his wife, who was carrying the child. The victim grabbed the defendant’s wife and pushed her.

Thus, the record contains “some evidence” that the defendant reasonably believed that, when the victim grabbed the defendant’s wife, the victim was about to use deadly force. Both sides had threatened to use deadly force, and the defendant was confronted by three large men, who advanced toward him in spite of the fact that he was wielding a knife. See State v. Pearson, 288 N.C. 34, 215 S.E.2d 598, 603 (N.C. 1975) (holding that the right to use deadly force in self-defense “may, in exceptional instances, arise when the fierceness of [the] assault, the position of the parties, and the great difference in their relative sizes or strength show that the danger of great bodily harm is imminent” (quotation omitted)); see also Furgal, 164 N.H. at 436 (holding defendant may use “deadly force against another if he reasonably believes that person is about to confine or restrain him so as to allow others to employ deadly force against him”).

In this case, because the record contains “some evidence,” it was the province of the jury to determine whether the defendant’s belief that the victim was about to use deadly force was reasonable. See State v. Haycock, 146 N.H. 5, 11, 766 A.2d 720 (2001) (holding that it is province of jury to weigh evidence of self-defense). We conclude that the trial court erred when it did not permit the defendant to raise defense of another as a defense, denied the defendant’s request to argue defense of another to the jury, and instructed the jury that it could not consider any form of self-defense. See Vassar, 154 N.H. at 374.

Reversed and remanded.

HICKS, CONBOY and BASSETT, JJ., concurred.

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