Articles Posted in Defenses

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Recently, the state’s supreme court issued an opinion in an interesting Arizona criminal law case involving a defendant’s justification defense to several kidnapping and child-abuse charges. The case required the court to determine whether the defendant’s proposed evidence that she was afraid her husband would hurt or kill her if she did not go along with the continued abuse of their children was admissible justification evidence or inadmissible evidence of diminished capacity. Ultimately, the court concluded that the evidence should have been admitted, and ordered the defendant to receive a new trial.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was arrested, along with her husband, when two of the couple’s three daughters broke out from their locked bedroom, ran to a neighbor’s home, and reported that their parents had kept them locked in a room and abused them over the course of several years. Both the defendant and her husband were charged with several counts of kidnapping and child abuse. Prior to trial, the cases against the two defendants were severed.

The defendant planned to testify that she participated in the abuse of her children only because she was afraid of her husband. In support of her claim, the defendant was prepared to testify that her husband physically abused her and maintained very tight control over her. For example, when the defendant left the house, she was required to keep her phone on at all times so her husband could hear her conversations. The defendant also had photographs of scars that were the result of her husband attacking her with a knife.

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Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of Arizona issued an opinion in an Arizona assault case requiring the court to review its longstanding decision not to allow a defendant to claim both self-defense and misidentification under the theory that the two are mutually exclusive. Ultimately, the court determined that a defendant should be able to claim self-defense, even if he is also claiming that he was not the one involved in the alleged criminal activity.

The Facts of the Case

The defendant was arrested on murder and aggravated assault charges after a fight at a house party resulted in two men being shot to death and another being seriously injured. It was undisputed that there were many other people at the party. While police were unable to locate the gun used in the shootings, they did located two bloodied knives on the victims. The knives were not tested for fingerprints or DNA.

The defendant did not testify at trial. His primary defense was that he was not the shooter. However, he also requested the judge to instruct the jury that, if he was determined to be the shooter, he was acting in self-defense. The court refused to give the self-defense instruction, explaining that since he claimed he was not the shooter, the defendant cannot also claim he acted in self-defense. The case was submitted to the jury, which returned a guilty verdict. The defendant appealed.

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In a recent Arizona criminal case, a police officer answered a check vehicle call after police got reports of a white truck that was parked in a lane of traffic. The officer turned on his overhead lights and pulled up behind the truck. He came up to the driver’s window and tried to talk to the truck driver. He saw three young kids in the car, who seemed to be sleeping. The truck driver asked to see his identification twice. He told her he was a police officer and pointed at his badge and at the police car’s emergency lights.

The police officer believed that it was necessary to check on the kids, due to the totality of the circumstances. He asked her to unlock the doors to check the kids’ welfare and tried to open the doors. She drove up about 100 yards, ignoring his requests to stop, and went into a parking lot.

He followed and pulled his police car behind the truck to effectuate another stop. She backed the truck toward his patrol car. He pulled into a bank drive-through and headed in through the exit. The officer followed her and tried to contact her to ask her to stop the truck. Rather than comply, she drove the truck right at the officer. He pointed his gun at her, and she accelerated. He ran out of the way. She hit his car and drove back into traffic for 50-60 feet. He stopped again in a lane of traffic.

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Understanding Arizona Affirmative Defenses

One of the best ways to understand the entrapment defense in Arizona is to read the standard jury instructions. Arizona Pattern Jury Instructions for criminal cases tracks the language of A.R.S. § 13-206 and provides:

The defendant has raised the affirmative defense of entrapment with respect to the charged offenses. In this case the defendant must prove the following by clear and convincing evidence: