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Commonwealth v. Sands

(2001)

Supreme Court of Virginia - 553 S.E.2d 733, 262 Va. 724

tl;dr:

A defendant who shot her abusive husband while he was in bed watching televisionw as not in imminent danger such that she was justified in killing him.

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ICRAIssue, Conclusion, Rule, Analysis for Commonwealth v. Sands

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Facts & HoldingCommonwealth v. Sands case brief facts & holding

Facts:The victim was the defendant's husband. He had been beating...

Holding:Self-defense was not available here, because this was a non-confrontational...

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Commonwealth v. Sands | Case Brief DeepDive
Majority opinion, author: JUSTICE KINSER
Level 1
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The defendant, Victoria Shelton Sands, was convicted of first degree murder and use of a firearm in the commission of murder. The Court of Appeals of Virginia reversed the convictions and remanded the case for a new trial due to the trial court's error in refusing to give the defendant's requested jury instruction on self-defense. However, the Supreme Court found no evidence of an imminent intention to kill or seriously harm the defendant by her abusive husband at the time of the shooting, and thus reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals and reinstated the defendant's convictions. The defendant suffered severe physical abuse from her husband, Thomas Lee Sands, and repeatedly attempted to end the relationship, but her husband refused and threatened to kill her and her family if she left. On the day of the shooting, the defendant returned home from visiting her injured parents in the hospital, and her husband beat her and threatened to kill her. The next morning, the defendant had a gun in her hand, which she claimed she was trying to hide for her own protection. Thomas followed her onto the porch, and they fought, resulting in him pushing her down several concrete steps and firing two shots into the ground near her. He then placed the gun on a counter and taunted the defendant to shoot him. The altercation ended when their four-year-old son entered the room. The circuit court denied the defense's request for a jury instruction on self-defense, citing insufficient evidence.

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Dissenting opinion, author: JUSTICE KOONTZ
Level 1
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The majority in the case found no evidence of an overt act indicating the victim's imminent intention to harm the defendant, and therefore denied her self-defense instruction. Justice Koontz dissented, stating that this was a matter for the jury to decide. The author agrees with the majority's understanding of the law but disagrees with their conclusion that the defendant was not entitled to a self-defense instruction. The author suggests that the majority's reasoning is flawed because it fails to consider the reasonableness of the defendant's perception of danger at the time she acted. A self-defense instruction is appropriate if there is more than a scintilla of evidence to support it.

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