United States v. Peterson

157 U.S. App. D.C. 219, 483 F.2d 1222 (1973)



So it is that necessity is the pervasive theme of the well-defined conditions that the law imposes on the right to kill or maim in self-defense. There must have been a threat, actual or apparent, of the use of deadly force against the defender. The threat must have been unlawful and immediate. The defender must have believed that he was in imminent peril of death or serious bodily harm, and that his response was necessary to save himself therefrom. These beliefs must not only have been honestly entertained, but also objectively reasonable in light of the surrounding circumstances. It is clear that no less than a concurrence of these elements will suffice.


Indicted for second-degree murder and convicted by a jury of manslaughter as a lesser included offense, Bennie L. Peterson urged three grounds for reversal. Defendant appealed his conviction claiming the trial court erred in instructing the jury to consider whether he was the aggressor in the altercation and whether he was justified in using deadly force despite his failure to retreat. Defendant shot and killed a man whom he accosted removing parts from defendant's junked car. An altercation ensued and defendant went into his home and returned with a loaded gun. The victim advanced with a lug wrench when he was shot. Defendant contended he was not required to retreat because he was within the curtilage of his dwelling. The appellate court disagreed and affirmed the conviction. 


Does a person who provokes conflict have the right to use deadly force in a case of self-defense?




The court held the right of self-defense was unavailable to an aggressor, and the no-retreat rule if attacked at home was available only to those who were without fault in causing the conflict.

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