Alonzo v. State (2011)

In Alonzo v. State, 353 S.W.3d 778 (Tex.Crim.App. 2011), the defendant was charged with murder arising out of a stabbing incident in a prison. The defendant claimed self-defense, and the jury charge included instructions on the lesser-included offenses of manslaughter and aggravated assault. Id. at 779-80. During deliberations, the jury, by note, asked the trial court two questions: (1) "If we find 'not guilty' of count 1 murder by reason of self-defense does that preclude us from considering the 2 lesser offenses in count 1?;" (2) "Can self-defense be applied to all 3 offenses in count 1? i.e. can 'self-defense' be used as a reason for finding 'not guilty' to the 2 lesser included offenses in count 1?" Id. at 780. In response, the trial court stated that if the jury believed self-defense as to the murder charge, they could still consider convicting on the lesser-included offenses of manslaughter and aggravated assault. Specifically, the trial court responded: "In response to your question: Self--Defense does apply to Murder. Self--Defense does not apply to Manslaughter. Self--Defense does not apply to Aggravated Assault if the jury finds the defendant committed Aggravated Assault recklessly." Alonzo, 353 S.W.3d 780. The jury convicted the defendant on manslaughter, but acquitted on murder. The Corpus Christi Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction. Id. On discretionary review, the Court of Criminal Appeals held that the trial court should have instructed that jury that if it believed the defendant's self-defense claim, it should acquit him on the lesser-included offense as well, since the defendant presented a justification defense that was applicable to offenses generally, and not merely those requiring a knowing or intentional mens rea. Id. at 783.