Failure to Object to Jury Instructions In Tennessee

Pursuant to Tenn. R. Crim. P. 30(b), the failure to object to the content of an instruction given at trial does not bar raising the issue as error in support of a motion for new trial. State v. Lynn, 924 S.W.2d 892, 898-899 (Tenn. 1996); State v. Graham, 1999 Tenn. Moreover, a trial court has a duty, irrespective of any special request or contemporaneous objection by defense counsel, to instruct the jury concerning issues fundamental to the defense and essential to a fair trial. State v. Anderson, 985 S.W.2d 9, 17 (Tenn. Crim. App. 1997). See also State v. Teel, 793 S.W.2d 236, 249 (Tenn. 1990); State v. Stoddard, 909 S.W.2d 454, 460 (Tenn. Crim. App. 1994). Accordingly, the appellant's challenge to the trial court's instructions on necessity and self defense are properly before this court. However, the appellant's failure to address the trial court's instruction on duress in her motion for new trial results in the waiver of this issue on appeal. See Tenn. R. App. P. 3(e) and 36(a). This court's primary role in statutory construction is to ascertain and give effect to legislative intent. Fletcher v. State, 951 S.W.2d 378, 381 (Tenn. 1997). Whenever possible, courts should ascertain legislative intent from the natural and ordinary meaning of the language used in the statute, "without a forced or subtle construction that would limit or extend the meaning of the statute." State v. Pettus, 986 S.W.2d 540, 544 (Tenn. 1999). When, however, "the fair import of the language of a penal statute, in the context of the legislative history and case law on the subject, . . . results in ambiguity," the statute should be strictly construed against the State and in favor of the defendant. State v. Horton, 880 S.W.2d 732, 735 (Tenn. Crim. App. 1994). See generally State v. Rogers, 992 S.W.2d 393, 400 (Tenn. 1999); State v. Levandowski, 955 S.W.2d 603, 604 (Tenn. 1997).