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Criminal Law Keyed to Gershowitz
State v. Beeley
Citation:653 A.2d 722.
The defendant dropped John off at his apartment that he shared with his wife Julie, and John told the defendant that the defendant could stay the night since it was so late. John testified that he opened the front door with his key, and, upon entering the apartment, John walked toward the bedroom and came face-to-face with his wife, Julie. Julie turned on the hallway light and John observed a man sleeping in the bed. John began screaming at Julie and asked her “Who was in the bed?” Julie responded “You know who it is.” John recognized the man as Robert Harding. Harding was not wearing any clothes. The two men began wrestling and moved toward the door of the apartment. Harding attempted to force John out of the apartment through the door. John yelled out to the defendant who was waiting outside the apartment. Defendant entered through the doorway and pulled John out of the apartment. John testified that he waited outside of the apartment with defendant for the police to arrive who had been called by Julie
Julie and Harding offered a different version of the events. Julie testified that Harding was sleeping on the couch in the living room of the apartment. At approximately four o’clock in the morning she was awakened by noise. From her bedroom she observed John standing in the hallway. Julie testified that she was sure that John had gained entry into the apartment through a living-room window because plant pots located on the window sill were broken. Julie and John began arguing and Harding woke up. John kicked Harding in the face several times as he sat on the couch. As the two men struggled Julie called the police. John hollered to the defendant “somebody is in here” and then unlocked the door. The defendant entered the apartment, punched Harding in the face, and then left with John.
Harding corroborated Julie’s testimony and indicated that as he was locked in combat with John, both tried to open the door. Harding testified that as he attempted to push John out the door, John unlocked the door. Initially Harding testified that John had opened the door, but later on cross-examination he recalled that he opened the door after John had unlocked it. John then called out to the defendant and the defendant entered and hit Harding in the face. Harding indicated that this was the first time he had ever met the defendant. Harding sustained facial injuries; however, it is unclear from the record whether Harding’s injuries were caused by the single punch executed by the defendant or by the altercation with John.
The defendant testified that as he waited outside the apartment he could hear John and Julie yelling. He walked to the door and banged on it but did not attempt to open it. The door opened and then slammed shut. When the door opened again the defendant could see naked Harding grabbing John by the waist. The defendant did not know Harding and did not know what Harding was doing in the apartment. John was crying, and he yelled to the defendant, “This is the guy.” The defendant hit Harding once to break his hold on John. He then grabbed John and pulled him out of the apartment. The defendant further testified that he did not know how John gained entry into the apartment.
At trial, the court instructed the jury that one acting to defend another has only a derivative right of self-defense, and that his or her actions are not judged by the reasonableness of his or her own conduct and perceptions. He was convicted of assault. He appealed, arguing that he was justified in assaulting Harding as he was he saw John being held by a naked man (Harding) and speculated that the latter was an intruder who may have raped Julie and he punched him in an attempt to break Harding’s hold on John.
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