Sunday, November 17, 2013

State v. Ouellette case brief

State v. Ouellette case brief summary
37 A.3d 921 (2011)

Defendant appealed his convictions for reckless conduct by the Superior Court (Aroostook County, Maine) arguing that the court erred in declining to instruct the jury on his justification of self-defense to that charge, and in failing to inform the jury of the parties' out-of-court resolution that resulted in a dismissal of a count of criminal mischief stemming from the same incident. The jury did not find him guilty of assault.

Defendant was charged with assault. He asserted that he acted only in self-defense, and requested a jury instruction to that effect for both the assault and reckless conduct charges. Defendant testified that he felt scared and threatened because two guys had threatened him and he thought were coming to jump me when they stopped their vehicle. Thus, defendant stated that he left his vehicle with a baseball bat and chased the victim, hit the victim on his wrist, swung the bat a few times without making contact with anything, and bashed a taillight, prior to driving away. Defendant then reported the incident to the police.

  • The appellate court held the trial court's omission of the jury instructions was erroneous as defendant could seek a self-defense instruction pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 17-A, § 108 for any charge that included an intentional, knowing, or reckless state of mind as one of its elements. 
  • The jury could have found that defendant acted in justifiable nondeadly self-defense in acquitting him of assault. 
  • It also could have found him not guilty of reckless conduct on the same basis. 
  • Thus, the failure to instruct accordingly was not harmless.

The judgment was vacated. The matter was remanded for a new trial.

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