Citation. Courvoisier v. Raymond, 23 Colo. 113, 47 P. 284, 1896 Colo. LEXIS 161 (Colo. 1896).
Brief Fact Summary. Courvoisier (Defendant), a jewelry storeowner, shot Raymond (Plaintiff), a police officer, because Defendant believed his life was in danger.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Defendant shot Plaintiff during a riot. Defendant swears that he thought Plaintiff, a police officer, to be a rioter who was approaching him in a threatening attitude.
Defendant was asleep in the second story of a building. He occupied a portion of the lower floor of this building as a jewelry store. Parties shaking or trying to open the door of the jewelry store woke Defendant up. These parties insisted on being admitted into the jewelry store. Upon Defendant’s refusal, the parties broke some signs and entered the building through another entrance. The parties knocked on the door where Defendant’s sister was sleeping. Defendant grabbed his gun and chased the parties out of the building. In order to frighten the parties, Defendant fired a warning shot in the air. The parties were not scared and threw bricks at Defendant. Defendant fired more warning shots. The first warning shot attracted Plaintiff, a police officer. Plaintiff approached Defendant, calling out to him that he was a police officer and to stop shooting. It was dark but the street was well lighted. Defendant took aim of Plaintiff and fired, causing injury to Plaintiff. Plaintiff
claims that Defendant, knowing him to be a police officer, recklessly fired the shot in question. Defendant claims that Plaintiff was approaching in a threatening manner and the surrounding circumstances were such to cause a reasonable man to believe that his life was in danger. The trial court held in favor of Plaintiff. Defendant appealed. Issue.
During a riot, is one justified in shooting another in an act of self-defense if he believes the other person to be one of the rioters?
Held. Yes. Judgment reversed.
* The jury instruction “if plaintiff was not assaulting defendant, then your verdict should be for plaintiff” was erroneous. It excluded from the jury a full consideration of the justification claimed by the defendant. If the jury believed that Defendant would have been justified in shooting one of the rioters and that Defendant mistook Plaintiff for one of the rioters, then Defendant would be entitled to a judgment in his favor, as long as, the circumstances of the shooting were excusable leading up to and surrounding the commission of the shooting. Defendant’s justification did not rest entirely upon the proof of assault by Plaintiff. A riot was in progress. The Defendant claimed he was hit with stones and that he shot Plaintiff thinking he was a rioter. The jury might have ruled in favor of Defendant if the erroneous jury instruction was not submitted to the jury.
Discussion. Self-defense is universally recognized as a justification for intentionally inflicting harm. In this case, the jury instruction did not allow the jury to fully consider Defendant’s version of the shooting.