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It is the defendant's right to have the question of his guilt determined by the verdict of a jury rather than by the judgment of the court.
Defendant, Newton Tomlins, shot and killed his son, a young man of twenty-two. On the trial, defendant maintained that he had acted without premeditation when blinded by passion because of blows and insults. He also maintained that he had acted justifiably, in lawful self-defense, in his own house. The defendant was convicted of murder in the first degree and was sustained by ample proof. Defendant appealed his conviction.
Was the defendant guilty of murder?
No. The Court reversed the judgment of conviction and ordered a new trial.
The court stated that there was ample evidence to support the jury's verdict of first-degree murder. However, the court considered whether the instruction given to the jury on self-defense was proper. The trial court instructed that there was a duty to retreat if possible before resorting to force. But the court held that the instructions were erroneous as applied to the case because it was not the law that a man was required to retreat in his own dwelling. If assailed there, he may stand his ground, and resist the attack. Because, in effect, the issue of self-defense was not submitted to the jury, the defendant's conviction was reversed.