The limitation to the use of the compulsion defense is restricted to crimes of intentional killing and that, where compulsion is a defense to an underlying felony under Kan. Stat. Ann. § 21-3209 so that the felony is justifiable, compulsion is equally a defense to charges of felony murder.
Defendant appealed the ruling of the trial court, which entered judgment on a jury verdict that found defendant guilty of two counts of felony murder, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, one count of aggravated robbery, one count of aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer, and one count of aggravated battery. Defendant contended, inter alia, that the trial judge committed reversible error by refusing his requested instruction on his defense of compulsion and that the trial court erred in denying his motion for a change of venue. The appellate court reversed defendant's conviction and remanded the case for a new trial.
Did the trial court commit reversible error by refusing to instruct the jury on the defense of compulsion because he was charged with premeditated and felony murder?
There was ample evidence presented from which the jury could have concluded that defendant’s acts were justified by compulsion. It was the function of the jury to determine if it was believable that defendant was afraid for his life, if such fear was reasonable, and if such fear justified any criminal acts which defendant might have performed. When the trial court refused the requested compulsion instruction, he effectively prevented the jury from considering the evidence presented in defendant's defense. The trial court committed reversible error in refusing to instruct the jury on defendant's theory of compulsion, as defendant was entitled to the instruction even though the evidence was slight and supported only by defendant's testimony.