State v. Mitcheson

560 P.2d 1120 (Utah 1977)

 

RULE:

In view of the salutary purpose of Utah Code Ann. § 76-2-405, of preserving the peace and good order of society, it should be interpreted and applied in the broad sense to accomplish that purpose. Thus it would include not only a person's actual residence, but also whatever place he may be occupying peacefully as a substitute home or habitation.

FACTS:

A man was convicted of murder in the second degree for shooting the victim in the front yard of his house. The defendant appealed his conviction for second degree murder. He argued that the lower court erred in not instructing the jury on the defense of using force in the protection of one's habitation. 

ISSUE:

Was the conviction proper?

ANSWER:

No

CONCLUSION:

The supreme court reversed defendant's conviction. The supreme court held that defendant was entitled to an instruction on the defense of habitation under Utah Code Ann. § 76-2-405 (1953). According to the court, section 76-2-405, applied not only to a person's actual residence, but also whatever place he occupied peacefully as a substitute home or habitation. The court continued and held, that in a criminal case, the defendant need not specially plead his defenses. According to the court, the entry of a not guilty plea placed upon the State the burden of proving every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt, and gave the defendant the benefit of every defense which caused a reasonable doubt to exist.

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