Imperfect Self-Defense Jury Instruction

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NOTE:  This is a sample jury instruction for imperfect self-defense for a charge of First Degree Assault.  It is a modified version of Maryland Pattern Jury Instruction Cr 5:07, Self-Defense,  with additional language pursuant to Christian v. State, 405 Md. 306 (2008).   

MODIFIED JURY INSTRUCTION (IMPERFECT SELF-DEFENSE)

You have heard evidence that the defendant acted in self-defense. You must decide whether this is a complete defense, a partial defense, or no defense in this case.

In order to convict the defendant of First Degree Assault, the State must prove that the defendant did not act in either complete self-defense or partial self-defense. If the defendant did act in complete self-defense, the verdict must be not guilty. If the defendant did not act in complete self-defense, but did act in partial self-defense, the verdict should be guilty of Second Degree Assault and not guilty of First Degree Assault.

Self-defense is a complete defense, and you are required to find the defendant not guilty, if all of the following four factors are present:

(1) the defendant was not the aggressor;

(2) the defendant actually believed that he was in immediate and imminent danger of bodily harm;

(3) the defendant’s belief was reasonable; and

(4) the defendant used no more force than was reasonably necessary to defend himself in light of the threatened or actual force.  

In order to convict the defendant of Assault the State must prove that self-defense does not apply in this case. This means that you are required to find the defendant not guilty, unless the State has persuaded you, beyond a reasonable doubt, that at least one of the four factors of complete self-defense was absent.

Even if you find that the defendant did not act in complete self-defense, the defendant may still have acted in partial self-defense.

If the defendant actually believed that he was in immediate and imminent of bodily harm, even though a reasonable person would not have so believed, the defendant’s actual, though unreasonable, belief is a partial self-defense and the verdict should be guilty of Second Degree Assault rather than First Degree Assault  OR

If the defendant used greater force than a reasonable person would have used, but the defendant actually believed that the force used was necessary, the defendant’s actual, though unreasonable, belief is a partial self-defense and the verdict should be guilty of Second Degree Assault rather than First Degree Assault.  

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