In a recent case coming out of an Arizona court, the defendant appealed his conviction for aggravated assault on a police officer. On appeal, the defendant argued that the judge in the lower court should have informed the jury that they could have reasonably found he was acting in self-defense against the police officers. Considering this argument, the higher court concluded that the self-defense instruction was not appropriate, and the defendant’s appeal was denied.
Facts of the Case
According to the opinion, law enforcement received a service call to investigate the defendant’s fifth-wheel trailer in a backyard. A police officer arrived at the scene, knocked on the trailer door, announced that he was from the police department, and ordered the defendant outside to talk.
The officer informed the defendant that he was under arrest. When the officer began putting the defendant in handcuffs, the defendant threw his elbows out, pulled away, and turned on the officer. A fight ensued. At one point, the defendant struck the officer with several solid objects. The officer then drew his pistol and fired a single round into the defendant’s neck.
Additional officers arrived at the scene, and the defendant continued to resist arrest. After a few minutes of this altercation, the defendant became somewhat limp, and the officers were able to handcuff him. The officers searched the defendant and ended up finding methamphetamine on his person. The officer that the defendant had struck was taken to the hospital, where he received a stitch on his forehead and eight staples on his head.
The defendant was charged and later found guilty of aggravated assault on a police officer. On appeal, the defendant argued that the lower court should have informed the jury that they could have found that the defendant was acting in self-defense. According to the defendant, he was not convinced that the person knocking on his door was a police officer. Thus, it was reasonable for him to resist arrest. The jury should have been told that this was a real possibility, which might have led them to conclude that the defendant was not guilty, given that he was acting in legitimate self-defense.
The court rejected the defendant’s argument. Importantly, said the court, the officer was dressed in uniform and had clearly identified himself as an officer. There was no evidence that a reasonable person in similar circumstances would have thought that the person arresting him was not a real police officer. Thus, the self-defense instruction was not necessary, and the defendant’s appeal was denied.
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