State v. Hines (1982)

In State v. Hines, 187 Conn. 199, 210-11, 445 A.2d 314 (1982), the trial court's instructions included an example of self-defense that was very similar to the facts in that case. The example stated by the court was: "Now, let me give an example. Suppose Mr. Smith attacks me with a knife and suppose I repel him by taking the knife away from him, I would not be justified in that instance in then placing the knife in his body, because the danger is now past." Id. at 208. The defendant in Hines claimed that the court's example had the effect of removing the issue of self-defense from the jury's consideration and misled the jury. Our Supreme Court concluded that the example "did not have the effect of taking the decision on the issue of self-defense away from the jury. It was merely an example; the court specifically said it was. . . . The factual circumstances in the evidence concerning it were left for the jury to pass upon. The example cannot be said to be an unfair statement of the law which it was offered to illustrate. It can hardly be characterized, as the defendant contends, as a 'direction' to the jury. Nor did it contain any 'distinct intimation' to the jury that this issue was no longer for it to decide because the court was directing it to decide that issue in a given fashion. . . . It is stretching matters too far to say that the use of this example, in connection with the proposition of law involved, was such as to warrant a reversal on the theory that the use of it, as the defendant appears to suggest, brought about his conviction." 187 Conn. at 212-13.