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Jury Instruction Self Defense In Guam

The Appellant presents the court with four issues to consider. the first issue raised by the Appellant is whether the trial court's failure to give a self-defense jury instruction, sua sponte, is reversible error.

The Appellant states that he was deprived of his constitutional right to have the jury determine every material issue presented by the evidence because the trial court failed to give a jury instruction of self-defense. We review this issue for plain error. 8 GCA § 90.19 (1993) and § 130.50 (1993); People of Guam v. Ueki, 1999 Guam 4, PP17-18.

The Appellant argues that the trial court should have given a sua sponte jury instruction of self-defense and that the trial court's failure to do so prejudiced the Appellant. In support of this position, he primarily relies upon People v. Mayweather, 259 Cal. App. 2d 752, 66 Cal.Rptr. 547 (1968), which reversed a conviction because of the trial court's failure to give a self-defense instruction.

Unlike this case, in Mayweather the failure to give the instruction was not reviewed under the plain error standard.

Courts are not bound to present every conceivable defense potentially suggested by the evidence. See United States v. Span, 970 F.2d 573 (9th Cir. 1992). the Ninth Circuit found no plain error in a court's failure to give a jury instruction regarding excessive force where the Appellant did not present such a defense and the Appellant did not request the instruction. Id. at 578.

Based upon the facts presented here, we find that the failure of the trial court to give a self-defense jury instruction sua sponte does not rise to the level of plain error.

As in Span, the Appellant here did not present a self-defense theory at trial but instead relied upon an alternative theory that he did not commit the crime. 3

3 As a tangential matter, the Appellant's counsel would have had a difficult time presenting a self-defense claim given the facts of the case. the Appellees note that the idea of a man who is over six feet tall and over two hundred pounds fearing a transvestite less than five feet tall and around one hundred forty pounds is unlikely. Appellee's Brief at 12-13 (January 27, 1999); Transcript, vol. X, p. 165 (Jury Trial, August 14, 1997). Even if Appellant were afraid of Raymond/Rita, inflicting multiple knife wounds in the neck, chest, and back goes far beyond meeting an aggressor with equal force.

The court could not logically reverse on this issue when the two defenses basically exclude each other. In addition, the Appellant did not request the instruction. Reversal is not warranted on these bases.