A successful self-defense case
A Clark County District Court jury deliberated only 30 minutes last week before returning a verdict of not guilty in a misdemeanor assault case.
My client, who was charged with assaulting his brother, had admitted to police that he hit his brother in anger because his brother had wrecked his vehicle. A witness indicated she did not see the assault, but did see my client raise his fist toward the alleged victim. When I first met with my client, he told me that his brother had advanced on him and he only struck him in self-defense. So that was going to be our defense at trial.
In a self-defense case, the alleged victim's history of violence, or lack of history, becomes relevant. For example, if you're in a screaming match with someone you've known for years, and that person has never been violent, you probably aren't going to be worried the argument will turn physical. But if you know the person has a history of being arrested for assault, you're going to be prepared to protect yourself.
In this case, the alleged victim has a history of assault and I was able to present that to the six-member jury during the Jan. 27 trial.
The alleged victim chose not appear at trial. The Vancouver assistant city attorney was still able to present evidence from the victim, including photographs of injuries allegedly caused by my client. My client was the only witness for defense. He testified that he was very upset after the incident, and because of this he did not explain to police that he acted in self-defense.
Once evidence of self-defense is presented a trial, a defendant is entitled to an instruction - by law - explaining that one has the right to defend himself when it appears there is a threat of force from another. The prosecution must disprove this defense beyond a reasonable doubt.
Since the jury found my client not guilty, he avoided jail time and fines and any mandatory treatment that may have been required because it would have been a domestic violence conviction. Also, a no-contact order that prevented him from seeing his brother while the charge was pending was dismissed.