If it is within the power of a trial court to set aside a verdict not supported by competent legal evidence, then it is equally within the province and power of the court to prevent such a verdict ever coming into existence. In either position, before or after the verdict, the trial court is compelled to survey and analyze the evidence, and from the same evidence, his analysis would undoubtedly be the same before or after a verdict. If it is to the end that the evidence is insufficient or incompetent, and no part of it is convincing beyond a reasonable doubt, then he should be courageous enough to prevent a miscarriage of justice by a jury.
Defendant was accused of murder and entered a plea of not guilty. The evidence showed that defendant was purposefully rear-ended by a car that contained four people. The individuals in the car physically threatened defendant and defendant responded by shooting and killing one of the passengers. The trial court decided that the evidence was insufficient to warrant submission of any issue to the jury and established a clear case of justifiable homicide. Thus, the trial court directed a verdict of not guilty and the state appealed. The state challenged the decision but the court affirmed the prior judgment.
Did the trial court err in not submitting any issue to the jury due to insufficiency of evidence?
The record did not contain any evidence that warranted the submission of the any issue to the jury. The court determined that under the law and the circumstances disclosed by the record, defendant had the right to defend himself against the threatened assault of those whose lawlessness and utter disregard of his rights resulted in the justifiable killing of one of their number.