CaseCast™ – "What you need to know"
Brief Fact Summary. The Defendant, Peterson (Defendant), fatally shot a man in an alley behind his house during the course of a quarrel pertaining to the victim’s attempt to take the windshield wipers off of the Defendant’s junked car.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. The use of lethal force in self-defense is lawful where a reasonable person would have believed, the defendant actually did believe, there was an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury and that retreat was not an available option.
Issue. When is self-defense available to a defendant as a justification for homicide?
Held. An individual may lawfully kill or injure another in self-defense where there is an actual or apparent threat of death or serious bodily harm toward the individual, and where that threat is unlawful and immediate, and the individual does not have the option of retreat. Not only must the individual have believed these factors to be present at the time, but the use of lethal force must have seemed objectively reasonable given the circumstances.
Discussion. This portion of the Court’s opinion outlines the basic elements necessary for a successful defense to a homicide prosecution based on justification. Absent an objectively reasonable belief that one was in danger of death or serious bodily injury, and that retreat was not possible, self-defense as a justification for homicide is not available to a defendant.