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Criminal Law Keyed to Weaver
Brown v. United States
Citation:256 U.S. 335 (1921)
There had been trouble between the Defendant, Brown, and a man named Hermis for a long time. The evidence showed that Hermis had assaulted the Defendant twice with a knife and had communicated threats to the Defendant. On the day in question, the Defendant was on federal property superintending work for a post office. Due to Hermis’ threats, the Defendant had taken a pistol with him and laid it in his cart upon a dump. Hermis was driven to the post office by a witness and came at the Defendant with a knife. The Defendant retreated about twenty-five feet, to get his pistol out of his coat. Hermis began striking at him and the Defendant fired four shots, killing Hermis.
At trial, the judge instructed the jury that it “is necessary to remember, in considering the question of self-defense, that the party assaulted is always under the obligation to retreat so long as retreat is open to him, provided that he can do so without subjecting himself to the danger of death or great bodily harm.” This instruction was reinforced by further statement that unless “retreat would have appeared to a man of reasonable prudence, in the position of the defendant as involving danger of death or serious bodily harm,” the defendant was not entitled to stand his ground. The Defendant offered an instruction that stated that if he had reasonable grounds of apprehension that he was in danger of losing his life or of suffering serious bodily harm from Hermis, he was not bound to retreat. This instruction was refused.
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Topic Refresher CourseIntroduction to Defenses and Self Defense