A Court has a requirement to instruct a jury on all the relevant facts, and ensure they hear all relevant law, therefore where a defendant provides some facts or circumstances to excuse his or her criminal act, or the specific issue is one of criminal intent, the judge should instruct the jury on the mistake of fact defense.
Defendant gave birth to a child in the bathtub, and hid the infant in the bathroom trash. Defendant was charged with manslaughter, and at trial she claimed that she did not know she was pregnant, and thought that the child had been born dead. Defendant was convicted of first-degree manslaughter, a specific intent crime. She appealed from that conviction, on the grounds that the court erred in not granting her an instruction on her mistake of fact defense.
Was defendant entitled to a jury instruction on the mistake of fact defense?
The Court reversed the defendant's conviction, and remanded for a new trial. The court held that the defendant was entitled to the mistake of fact instruction because she presented evidence that she did not intend to kill her infant. Further, the Court held that the lower court erred in refusing to grant the instruction as to the specific intent crimes with which the defendant was charged.