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When evidence is presented showing the defendant's subjective belief that the use of force was necessary to prevent imminent death or serious bodily harm, the defendant is entitled to a proper instruction on imperfect self-defense.
The Emanuel brothers, Jimmy and Rickey, became embroiled in an argument with defendant Melvin Faulkner. The argument escalated into a fight between Jimmy and defendant. Because defendant believed that Jimmy was armed with a knife, he produced a handgun and began firing. However, defendant shot Rickey twice in the chest. Defendant was then charged with assault with intent to murder and related offenses. At his trial, the court instructed the jury as to the defenses of justification by way of self-defense and mitigation by way of hot-blooded response to the provocation of mutual combat. The court, however, declined defendant’s request that the jury also be instructed as to the defense of "imperfect self-defense.” The jury subsequently found defendant guilty of assault with intent to murder and related handgun offenses. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the trial court erred in refusing to instruct the jury as to the defense of imperfect self-defense. A writ of certiorari was granted.
Did the trial court err in refusing to instruct the jury as to the defense of imperfect self-defense?
On appeal, the court agreed with the appeals court and held that the trial court erred in refusing to instruct the jury as to the defense of imperfect self-defense. The court held that the mitigation defense of imperfect self-defense was necessarily raised when defendant generated the issue of justification or excuse by way of perfect self-defense. Moreover, the mitigation defense of imperfect self-defense applied to the statutory crime of assault with intent to murder under Md. Ann. Code art. 27, § 12 (1957). According to the court, the trial court should have granted defendant's requested instruction on imperfect self-defense because defendant produced sufficient evidence to generate a jury issue as to whether he had a subjectively honest but objectively unreasonable belief that he was in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury.