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.