Friday, November 15, 2013

People v. Aiken case brief

People v. Aiken case brief summary
828 N.E.2d 74 (2005)

Believing he was about to be stabbed again, defendant struck a victim with a metal pipe, killing him. Defendant asked the trial court to charge the jury that, if a defendant was in his home and in close proximity of a threshold of his home, there was no duty to retreat. The trial court denied the request. Defendant was convicted of manslaughter in the first degree. The Supreme Court, Appellate Division, New York, affirmed. Defendant appealed.

The question before the instant court was whether, before defensively using deadly physical force against another, a defendant standing in the doorway between his apartment and the common hall of a multi-unit building had a duty under N.Y. Penal Law § 35.15 to retreat into his home when he could have safely done so.

  • The instant court recognized that the evidence supported defendant's request for a justification charge because defendant presented evidence of his prior history with the victim, the victim's threats and violent conduct, as well as defendant's subjective belief that the victim was about to stab him again. 
  • However, defendant was not entitled to a jury instruction that he had no duty to retreat. Under no reasonable view of the evidence was defendant actually inside his apartment when confronted by the victim. 
  • Nor did defendant's claim that he was standing in the doorway, or threshold, of his apartment entitle him to that instruction. 
  • While a person was not bound to abandon one's home, requiring a person standing in the doorway to step inside the apartment to avoid a violent encounter was not the equivalent of mandating retreat from one's home.

The order was affirmed.

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