In certain cases, even if criminal defendants committed the alleged acts out of which their charges arose, they may be able to argue an affirmative defense to avoid a conviction. For example, defendants charged with assault may be able to persuade the judge or jury that their actions were undertaken in self-defense and therefore were justified. Recently, a Washington appellate court discussed what jury instructions are appropriate regarding self-defense in a case in which the defendant argued he was unjustly convicted of assault. If you are a resident of Washington charged with assault, it is prudent to consult a skillful Washington assault defense attorney regarding your available defenses.
Facts of the Case
It is reported that the defendant’s wife became involved in a dispute with their next-door neighbor over landscaping fabric that was encroaching on the neighbor’s yard through a wooden fence. The argument continued for several days, and the defendant and his wife began to take down the fence. At that point, the defendant alleges that the neighbor came outside and swore at the defendant while carrying a pickaxe. The police came to the defendant’s home in an attempt to diffuse the situation. The defendant continued to take down the fence with his wife, who suddenly stated that the neighbor was approaching them with a gun. In response, the defendant pointed a pistol at the neighbor. The defendant was subsequently charged with and convicted of second-degree assault. He subsequently appealed, arguing the court provided inadequate instructions to the jury regarding self-defense.
Self-Defense Under Washington Law
In part, the defendant argued that self-defense is an element of second-degree assault, and therefore, it should have been including in the jury instruction regarding what was needed to convict the defendant. The court rejected this argument, finding that advising the jury regarding self-defense in a separate instruction was appropriate. The court conceded that the Washington Supreme Court previously held that the State must disprove self-defense to prove that a defendant that is charged with second-degree assault committed unlawful acts. The court stated, however, that the State’s burden could be met even if a separate instruction was provided to the jury regarding self-defense. Continue reading