Law School Case Brief
State v. Simon - 231 Kan. 572, 646 P.2d 1119 (1982)
The statutory authority for any instruction relative to use of force in defense of a person is Kan. Stat. Ann. § 21-3211, which provides that a person is justified in the use of force against an aggressor when and to the extent it appears to him and he reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or another against such aggressor's imminent use of unlawful force. A reasonable belief implies both a belief and the existence of facts that would persuade a reasonable man to that belief.
Defendant Anthony J. Simon was an elderly homeowner. Simon's neighbor, one Steffen Wong, rented half of the duplex next door to him. Simon feared Wong, believing that he was an expert martial artist. Rickey and Brenda Douglas ("Douglases") rented the other half of the duplex. On May 27, 1981, gun shots were fired at Wong as he attempted to enter his part of duplex. Shortly thereafter the Douglases pulled into their driveway and were fired upon by Simon. Police officers arrived a few minutes later and Simon fired shots at the officers. Simon was charged with two counts of aggravated assault for firing at Wong and Rickey Douglas. At trial in Kansas state court, Simon claimed self-defense pursuant to Kan. Stat. Ann. § 21-3211 and testified as to his general fear of Wong and that Wong had walked toward him cursing just before the incident started. Simon also called a clinical psychologist who testified that he had "anxiety neurosis" that permitted him to misjudge reality and see himself under attack. The trial court instructed the jury on self-defense pursuant to Kan. Pattern Instructions Crim. No. 54.17, which used a subjective standard to determine the reasonableness of defendant's actions. The jury acquitted Simon on both counts. The State appealed.
Was the statutory justification for the use of deadly force in defense of a person contained in K.S.A. 21-3211 to be determined by the trier of fact using a subjective standard (from the viewpoint of the accused's state of mind)?
The state supreme court sustained the State's appeal. The court held that Instruction No. 54.17 was an incorrect statement of the law of Kansas because Kan. Stat. Ann. § 21-3211 required the trier of fact to determine the reasonableness of an accused's actions by an objective standard. The court expressly disapproved the giving of Kan. Pattern Instructions Crim. No. 54.17 and ruled that, in Simon's case, the jury should have been instructed with the following, or its equivalent: A person is justified in the use of force against an aggressor when and to the extent it appears to him and he reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or another against such aggressor's imminent use of unlawful force. A reasonable belief implies both a belief and the existence of facts that would persuade a reasonable man to that belief.
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