State v. Hunter

In State v. Hunter, 142 Ariz. 88, 90, 688 P.2d 980, 982 (1984), the court addressed error when the defendant did not object to the trial court's improper instruction to the jury regarding the defendant's burden for self-defense. Id. Acknowledging that fundamental error must be "error of such magnitude that the defendant could not possibly have received a fair trial," the court held that failure to properly instruct the jury regarding the defendant's burden of proof on self-defense is fundamental error. Id. The court reasoned: "The very purpose of a jury charge is to flag the jurors' attention to concepts that must not be misunderstood, such as reasonable doubt and burden of proof." It is vital that the jury not misunderstand the concept of the defendant's burden of proof on self-defense; the jury must be instructed with great care to prevent the misunderstanding of this concept. Id. The Arizona Supreme Court has ruled that failure to instruct the jury on burden of proof is fundamental error. Hunter, 142 Ariz. at 90, 688 P.2d at 982.