holding that where the record contains any evidence tending to establish the defense of self-defense, the defendant is entitled to have the jury properly instructed with respect to that defenseSummary of this case from People v. Garcia
Decided October 7, 1991.
Certiorari to the Colorado Court of Appeals.
David F. Vela, Colorado State Public Defender, Martin J. Gerra, III, Deputy State Public Defender, for Petitioner.
Gale A. Norton, Attorney General, Raymond T. Slaughter, Chief Deputy Attorney General, Timothy M. Tymkovich, Solicitor General, John Daniel Dailey, Deputy Attorney General, Robert Mark Russel, First Assistant Attorney General, John J. Krause, Assistant Attorney General, for Respondent.
Appellant Anthony M. Idrogo was convicted by a jury of the offenses of reckless manslaughter, in violation of section 18-3-104(1)(a), 8B C.R.S. (1986), and crime of violence, in violation of section 16-11-309, 8A C.R.S. (1986). The jury also found Idrogo to be a habitual criminal, in violation of section 16-13-101(2), 8A C.R.S. (1986). At trial, Idrogo tendered a jury instruction describing the limits of a person's duty to retreat when attacked by another person. The trial court refused to give the instruction to the jury, and the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's decision in the unpublished opinion of People v. Idrogo, No. 87CA1250 (Colo.App. March 22, 1990) (not selected for official publication). Having granted Idrogo's petition for certiorari to consider the propriety of the trial court's ruling, we reverse and remand with directions.
The Court of Appeals opinion erroneously indicates that Idrogo was found guilty of the offense of second degree murder. People v. Idrogo, No. 87CA1250, slip op. at 1 (Colo.App. Mar. 22, 1990) (not selected for official publication).
On the evening of September 6, 1985, while Idrogo and a companion, Carol Babb, were walking toward their Colorado Springs home, Idrogo entered a liquor store to purchase cigarette rolling papers. Raymond Archuleta and his brother, William, were inside the store. William, who was extremely intoxicated, followed Idrogo out of the store and repeatedly requested that Idrogo sell him a marijuana cigarette. Idrogo refused and told William to "leave us alone," but William repeated his request. When Idrogo and Babb began to back away from William, requesting that he leave them alone, William pursued them and insisted that Idrogo sell him some marijuana. Idrogo then removed a knife from a purse carried by Babb, showed it to William, and stated "You don't want to get cut. Just leave us alone." William stopped, and Idrogo and Babb continued to move backwards away from him.
The evidence at trial with respect to the conduct of the principal participants in the events occurring on September 6, 1986, was presented by several witnesses who witnessed only various portions of such events. The material facts as outlined here, while based on often conflicting evidence, appear to be undisputed for purposes of this appeal.
At about that time Raymond Archuleta, who was also intoxicated, appeared on the scene, began to walk rapidly toward Idrogo, and asked "Are you messing with my bro?" Idrogo and Babb continued to slowly back away, and Idrogo displayed the knife to Raymond, stating "Leave us alone. We're getting out of here. We don't want trouble." Raymond nevertheless continued to walk rapidly toward the couple, raised his fists, and ultimately caught up with them. A fight ensued, during which Raymond struck Idrogo and Idrogo stabbed Raymond once. Raymond died a short time later. A deputy coroner testified that Raymond's death resulted from the single wound.
At trial Idrogo tendered the following instruction to the trial court at the conclusion of the evidence:
"The Defendant, if he did not provoke the assault, is not obliged to retreat or flee to save his life, but may stand his ground, and even in some circumstances, pursue his assailant until the latter has been disarmed or disabled from carrying into effect his unlawful purpose, and this right of the Defendant goes even to the extent, if necessary, of taking human life."
In rejecting this tendered instruction, the trial court stated as follows:
"[A]s far as retreating to the wall, et cetera, the Court finds that this goes too far. And taking into consideration the model jury instructions on the law of self-defense, that this instruction, even going so far as to say that one is entitled to pursue his assailant until the latter has been disarmed or disabled from carrying into effect his unlawful purpose, and this right of the Defendant goes to the extent, if necessary, of even taking human life, I don't think is an ideal statement of the law of self-defense as it stands in the State of Colorado at this time."
The jury ultimately found Idrogo guilty of the lesser included offense of reckless manslaughter and also returned guilty verdicts to the counts alleging crime of violence and habitual criminal.
On appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court, stating that:
"Under the language of this instruction, defendant would have us take the "no duty to retreat" doctrine a step further by instructing a jury that a right exists to take a life. That theory does not reflect the state of the law and failure to so instruct does not constitute error."
Idrogo asserts that the trial court and the Court of Appeals erred because the instruction he tendered accurately reflected the law of self-defense in this jurisdiction in relation to the facts of this case. While we conclude that a portion of the tendered instruction is inaccurate, we also conclude that in the circumstances of this case Idrogo was entitled to an instruction explicitly explaining the doctrine of no-retreat as codified in section 18-1-704(2)(a), 8B C.R.S. (1986).
The affirmative defense of self-defense is codified at section 18-1-704, 8B C.R.S. (1986). That statute states, in pertinent part, as follows:
"(1) . . . a person is justified in using physical force upon another person in order to defend himself or a third person from what he reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of unlawful physical force by that other person, and he may use a degree of force which he reasonably believes to be necessary for that purpose.
"(2) Deadly physical force may be used only if a person reasonably believes a lesser degree of force is inadequate and:
"(a) The actor has reasonable ground to believe, and does believe, that he or another person is in imminent danger of being killed or of receiving great bodily injury . . . ."
§ 18-1-704(1) and (2)(a), 8B C.R.S (1986). We have consistently held that where the record contains any evidence tending to establish the defense of self-defense, the defendant is entitled to have the jury properly instructed with respect to that defense. See, e.g., People v. Dillon, 655 P.2d 841 (Colo. 1982); Young v. People, 47 Colo. 352, 107 P. 274 (1910). We have also held that although an instruction couched in terms of the language of the statute is proper, Vigil v. People, 143 Colo. 328, 353 P.2d 62 (1960), a trial court must tailor instructions to the particular circumstances of a given case when the instructions, taken as a whole, do not adequately apprise the jury of the law of self-defense from the standpoint of the defendant. People v. Jones, 675 P.2d 9 (Colo. 1984); Young v. People, 47 Colo. 352, 107 P. 274. See also Bustamonte v. People, 157 Colo. 146, 401 P.2d 597 (1965). See generally, Leonard v. People, 149 Colo. 360, 369 P.2d 54 (1962).
The People do not dispute that, given the testimony adduced at trial, Idrogo was entitled to have the jury instructed on the issue of self-defense. The People assert, however, that the instruction tendered by Idrogo contained an incorrect statement of law. The People argue that even though there is no general duty to retreat before acting in self-defense, such a duty arises before a defendant may use deadly force. We reject this argument. Furthermore, while we acknowledge that Idrogo's tendered instruction is in part erroneous, we do not agree that the trial court was therefore free to disregard Idrogo's request for a no-retreat instruction.
At common law, one had a duty to retreat before resorting to force to defend against an aggressor. See People v. Watson, 671 P.2d 973 (Colo.App. 1983). The common-law doctrine was modified in this jurisdiction just prior to the turn of the century. Boykin v. People, 22 Colo. 496, 45 P. 419 (1896).
The General Assembly has in essence codified the principles developed by this court. Beckett v. People, 800 P.2d 74, 78 (Colo. 1990). In section 18-1-704(2), the General Assembly has expressly authorized the use of deadly physical force by a non-aggressor when the non-aggressor believes, on reasonable grounds, that he, she or another person is in imminent danger of receiving great bodily harm. The statute contains no language reflecting any intention by the General Assembly to revive the doctrine of retreat.
In Beckett, this court held that a separate instruction defining a defendant's right to act upon "apparent necessity" was not required when the jury was instructed pursuant to § 18-1-704 that a defendant is entitled to act in self-defense upon the defendant's reasonable belief.
In Boykin, we articulated the right of a person to resort to self-defense as follows:
"[W]here a defendant is where he has a right to be, as, for example, a police officer engaged in making an arrest, and is assaulted by the deceased in a way that defendant honestly and in good faith believes, and the circumstances being such as would induce a like belief in a reasonable man, that he is about to receive at the hands of his assailant great bodily harm, or to lose his life, the defendant, if he did not provoke the assault, or is not within some of the exceptions above noted, is not obliged to retreat or flee to save his life, but may stand his ground, and even, in some circumstances, pursue his assailant until the latter has been disarmed or disabled from carrying into effect his unlawful purpose; and this right of the defendant goes even to the extent, if necessary, of taking human life."
Boykin v. People, 22 Colo. 496, 504, 45 P. 419, 422. Idrogo's tendered instruction was modeled on our language in Boykin. The People argue that Boykin is inapplicable because it dealt with conduct of a police officer, and the common law consistently recognized that a police officer attempting to effect a lawful arrest was not subject to the general rule requiring retreat before using deadly force. See Lynn v. People, 170 Ill. 527, 48 N.E. 964 (1897); State v. Smith, 127 Iowa 534, 103 N.W. 944 (1905); State v. Ellis, 241 N.C. 702, 86 S.E.2d 272 (1955). See also Ealey v. City of Detroit, 144 Mich. App. 324, 375 N.W.2d 435 (1985); People v. Johnson, 75 Mich. App. 337, 254 N.W.2d 667 (1977). Although it is true that Boykin involved a police officer attempting to effect an arrest, we noted therein that in some circumstances a non-aggressor not a police officer need not retreat from an aggressor prior to using deadly physical force in self-defense. See Boykin at 504. Since Boykin, this court has consistently affirmed that an innocent victim of an assault is not bound to retreat before using deadly force when the use of such force is reasonable under the circumstances. See People v. Sepeda, 196 Colo. 13, 23, 581 P.2d 723, 730 (1978); People v. Favors, 192 Colo. 136, 140, 556 P.2d 72, 75 (1976); Hinton v. People, 169 Colo. 545, 553, 458 P.2d 611, 614 (1969); Enyart v. People, 67 Colo. 434, 439, 180 P. 722, 724 (1919); Harris v. People, 32 Colo. 211, 218, 75 P. 427, 430 (1904); Ritchey v. People, 23 Colo. 314, 321, 47 P. 272, 274 (1896). See also People v. May, 745 P.2d 218, 221 (Colo. 1987) (attorney who, inter alia, failed to submit instruction on no duty to retreat disciplined); Leonard v. People, 149 Colo. 360, 377, 369 P.2d 54, 63 (1962) (court approves, in dicta, of instruction on no duty to retreat). Section 18-1-704, 8B C.R.S. (1986), represents legislative codification of our decisions with respect to this principle. Beckett v. People, 800 P.2d at 78. We disagree that Boykin is distinguishable in any meaningful way.
It is true, as the trial court and the Court of Appeals observed, that the latter portion of Idrogo's tendered instruction, suggesting that a person acting in self-defense may turn aggressor, pursue a withdrawing initial aggressor and in some circumstances use deadly physical force to disarm or disable such initial aggressor, is not supported by our case law. While similar language appears in Boykin, see Boykin, 22 Colo. at 504, 45 P. at 422, that dicta is related to the circumstances of that case and has reference to the duty of police officers to disarm persons suspected of committing crimes. While the duty of no retreat has been extended generally to non-aggressors, the same may not be said for the right to pursue an initial aggressor who has withdrawn from the fray. See People v. Sepeda, 196 Colo. at 23, 581 P.2d at 730-31.
The People also argue that the self-defense instruction given by the trial court adequately apprised the jury of the principle that Idrogo had no duty to retreat. We again disagree.
The trial court instructed the jury that Idrogo was entitled to use deadly force if he reasonably believed a lesser degree of force was inadequate and if the victim was committing or reasonably appeared to be committing an assault. This instruction does not inform the jury, directly or indirectly, that if Idrogo were not the initial aggressor he need not retreat at all to be entitled to use deadly force if he believed such force to be necessary in light of Raymond's conduct and the belief was based on reasonable grounds. Because the jury could reasonably have concluded on the basis of the instructions given at trial that Idrogo's failure to retreat was evidence that a lesser degree of force would have been adequate, an instruction explaining that Idrogo had no duty to retreat would not, as the People argue, have been redundant. A trial court's failure to properly instruct a jury on the applicable law of self-defense deprives the defendant of the right to an acquittal on the ground of self-defense if the jury could have had a reasonable doubt as to whether the defendant acted in necessary self-defense. Leonard v. People, 149 Colo. at 377, 369 P.2d at 63.
The case of Beckett v. People, 800 P.2d 74 (Colo. 1990), relied upon by the People, does not support a contrary result. In Beckett, we concluded that the language of the self-defense statute, section 18-1-704, abrogated the necessity for a specific instruction on the doctrine of apparent necessity. That case is supportive of Idrogo's argument that the statute affirms the principle that a non-aggressor need not retreat before using deadly force when the non-aggressor believes, on reasonable grounds, that he, she or another person is in imminent danger of receiving great bodily harm.
Our determination that the legislature did not intend to change the doctrine of no duty to retreat is supported by a comparison of section 18-1-704(2), 8B C.R.S. (1986), with section 18-1-704(3)(b), 8B C.R.S. (1986). The latter statute expressly requires retreat before physical force is justifiable where the defendant is the initial aggressor. Section 18-1-704(3)(b) reflects the common law rule that an initial aggressor is not entitled to assert the right to stand one's ground in self-defense, and jurisdictions that follow this rule have universally recognized such initial aggressor exception. Commonwealth v. Naylor, 407 Mass. 333, 553 N.E.2d 542 (1990); State v. Foster, 91 Wn.2d 466, 589 P.2d 789 (1979) (en banc); Annotation, Comment Note: Withdrawal, After Provocation of Conflict, As Reviving Right of Self-Defense, 55 A.L.R.3d 1000 § 3 (1974). Section 18-1-704(2) contains no language restricting the circumstances in which a non-aggressor may use physical force, including deadly physical force, when such person believes, on reasonable grounds, that such conduct is necessary to avoid great bodily harm.
Section 18-1-704(3)(b) states that: "Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (1) of this section, a person is not justified in using physical force if: . . . . "(b) He is the initial aggressor, except that his use of physical force upon another person under circumstances is justifiable if he withdraws from the encounter and effectively communicates to the other person his intent to do so. . . ."
The People finally suggest that this court should create an absolute duty of retreat before an innocent non-aggressor may resort to the use of deadly force when reasonably necessary for purposes of self-defense. We disagree.
The long-established rule in Colorado is that an innocent victim of assault need not retreat before using deadly force if the victim believes the use of such force is necessary for self-protection and the belief is based on reasonable grounds. This rule remains the majority view in this country. Brown v. United States, 256 U.S. 335 (1921); People v. Gonzales, 71 Cal. 569, 12 P. 783 (1887); Runyan v. State, 57 Ind. 80 (1877); Hayred v. State, 451 So.2d 227 (Miss. 1984); Voight v. State, 53 Tex.Crim. 258, 109 S.W. 205 (1908); People v. Johnson, 75 Mich. App. 337, 254 N.W.2d 667 (1977). See generally, LaFave Scott, Criminal Law § 5.7(f) (2d ed. 1986); C.E. Torcia, Wharton's Criminal Law § 126, (14th ed. 1979). But see Model Penal Code and Commentaries § 3.04 (1985). Under the circumstances of this case, where the question of whether Idrogo did in fact retreat was vigorously disputed, Idrogo was entitled to have the jury properly instructed on the applicable law of non-retreat. To the extent the trial court found portions of Idrogo's tendered instruction objectionable, it erred in not ensuring that the jury received a proper alternative instruction setting forth the rule relied upon by Idrogo. People v. Moya, 182 Colo. 290, 512 P.2d 1155 (1973). See People v. Bookman, 646 P.2d 924 (Colo. 1982); People v. Weiss, 717 P.2d 511 (Colo.App. 1985).
For the foregoing reasons, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed and the case is remanded to that court with directions to remand to the trial court for new trial.
JUSTICE VOLLACK dissents.