United States v. Peterson

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



It has long been accepted that one cannot support a claim of self-defense by a self-generated necessity to kill. The right of homicidal self-defense is granted only to those free from fault in the difficulty; it is denied to slayers who incite the fatal attack, encourage the fatal quarrel or otherwise promote the necessitous occasion for taking life. The fact that the deceased struck the first blow, fired the first shot or made the first menacing gesture does not legalize the self-defense claim if in fact the claimant was the actual provoker. In sum, one who is the aggressor in a conflict culminating in death cannot invoke the necessities of self-preservation. Only in the event that he communicates to his adversary his intent to withdraw and in good faith attempts to do so is he restored to his right of self-defense.


Defendant appealed his conviction of manslaughter, 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.


Can an aggressor in an altercation claim 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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