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A defendant is entitled to an instruction on perfect self-defense as justification for homicide where, viewed in the light most favorable to the defendant, there is evidence tending to show that at the time of the killing: (1) it appeared to defendant and he believed it to be necessary to kill the deceased in order to save himself from death or great bodily harm; and (2) defendant's belief was reasonable in that the circumstances as they appeared to him at the time were sufficient to create such a belief in the mind of a person of ordinary firmness; and (3) defendant was not the aggressor in bringing on the affray, that is, he did not aggressively and willingly enter into the fight without legal excuse or provocation; and (4) defendant did not use excessive force, that is, did not use more force than was necessary or reasonably appeared to him to be necessary under the circumstances to protect himself from death or great bodily harm.
Defendant, Judy Ann Laws Norman, was indicted for first degree murder in the shooting death of her husband, J.T. Norman. The jury returned a verdict of guilty of voluntary manslaughter, andthe trial court sentenced to defendant to six years' imprisonment. Defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court erred when it failed to instruct the jury on self-defense. The state argued that the trial court did not err because defendant was not entitled to the jury instruction because her husband was asleep when defendant shot him.
Did the trial court err when it failed to instruct the jury on perfect self-defense, in which one element required that a defendant not be aggressor?
The appellate court reviewed the facts of the case, which presented the question of whether the victim's passiveness at the moment he was killed precluded defendant from asserting the defense of perfect self-defense. The court found that the evidence was sufficient to have submitted the issue of perfect self-defense to the jury. The court noted that based on the facts and the expert testimony defendant suffered from battered spouse syndrome and that the abuse was so severe and had continued for so long that defendant met both the subjective and objective aspects of the perfect self-defense test. The court noted that the jury should consider evidence of battered spouse syndrome along with all the evidence when it considered whether there was a reasonable doubt as to the unlawfulness of defendant's conduct.