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The Champion

March 2007 , Page 34 

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Defending the Self-Defense Case

By Lisa J. Steele

Author: Lisa J. Steele

A self-defense case is fundamentally different from most other criminal prosecutions. The essence of the defense is that the defendant is the victim of an attempted or completed violent felony such as assault, rape, or homicide which, but for the defendant’s lawful actions, would have resulted in the defendant’s death or in serious bodily harm. The complainant is, in fact, a violent aggressor who, but for the defendant’s lawful actions, would be the one standing trial. The defendant is the “good guy” and the victim is the “bad guy,” despite the prosecution’s efforts to portray the converse.

Many assumptions about trial tactics are inverted in a self-defense case. If the defendant presents some evidence on each of the elements of self-defense, then he or she is entitled to a jury instruction on the issue, which places the burden of proof squarely on the prosecutor to disprove self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt. If the prosecution fa

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