Sunday, November 17, 2013

State v. Mantelli case brief

State v. Mantelli case brief summary
42 P.3d 272 (2002)

Defendant police officer, appealed his conviction for voluntary manslaughter, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon (a firearm), and shooting at a motor vehicle resulting in injury. He argued that the District Court of San Miguel County (New Mexico) erred by, inter alia, failing to instruct the jury on an essential element of shooting at a motor vehicle, and refusing to instruct the jury on justifiable homicide by a police officer.

Defendant and his partner were involved in a high speed chase. At one point, they blocked the truck they were pursuing, causing it to collide with the police car. When the driver of the truck backed away from the police car, defendant fired shots into the car, killing the driver. The State's theory at trial was that defendant shot the driver to prevent him from escaping. Defendant testified he believed at the time of the shooting that the truck was being used as a deadly weapon to attack him and his partner, that their lives were in danger, and that he was therefore justified in using deadly force in self-defense and defense of another.


  • The appellate court concluded that defendant was entitled to have the jury instructed on justifiable homicide by a police officer in accordance with N.M. Stat. Ann. § 30-2-6 (1989) and reversed defendant's convictions. 
  • Defendant submitted sufficient evidence to warrant a jury instruction on justifiable homicide by a police officer. 
  • A reasonable jury, if it believed defendant's version, could have concluded that defendant was justified in using deadly force to protect himself and his partner. 
  • The trial court's error was not harmless.

The judgment and sentence of the district court was reversed, and the matter was remanded with instructions that defendant be granted a new trial.

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