Sunday, November 17, 2013

State v. Saunders case brief

State v. Saunders case brief summary
330 S.E.2d 674 (1985)

Defendant appealed his conviction for first-degree murder and sentence of life imprisonment entered in the Circuit Court of Raleigh County (West Virginia). Defendant contended that his conviction should be reversed because the circuit court refused an instruction on defense of another as an extension of the affirmative defense of self-defense.

There was confusion and conflicting testimony surrounding the circumstances that led to the shooting of the victim. It was clear, however, that defendant retrieved a gun from the vehicle of a person that was witnessing a fight that was occurring between defendant's brother and two others. Defendant argued at his trial that he shot in self-defense of his brother. One of the others involved in the fight held his brother to the ground and threatening to kill him. Defendant insisted that he was afraid for his brother's life. Defendant contended on appeal that the court erred in refusing to give any of defendant's instructions on the issue of defense of another.


  • The court held that reversal of defendant's conviction was necessary because the lower court refused the instruction and proceeded under the erroneous assumption that defense of another was not law in West Virginia. 
  • The jury should have been provided with the proffered instruction on defense of another because the defense existed in West Virginia and there was sufficient evidence to allow the jury to consider whether defendant believed the other two were going to injure seriously or even kill his brother.

The court reversed defendant's conviction of first-degree murder and remanded for a new trial.

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