Tags: Criminal law, Self-defense, Retreat
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The case involves Frank Abbott, who was convicted of atrocious assault and battery after a fight with his neighbors over a doorstop made from asphalt. The main issue is whether the trial court properly instructed the jury on self-defense. The court charged on excessive force, but there was an error in the instruction on retreat. The Appellate Division affirmed the conviction, and the case was brought to the Supreme Court. The court is considering whether the defendant needs to show "plain error" to question the instruction on retreat. The court will discuss the doctrine of retreat and whether it applies to a charge of atrocious assault and battery. The court assumes the defendant used no more force than necessary and considers whether the claim of self-defense should be denied because the defendant could have avoided using force by retreating. The court notes that there is much dispute over whether retreat is necessary in self-defense, but it does not find it useful to explore this question.
The Court of Errors and Appeals in New Jersey has adopted the retreat doctrine, but believes it should be limited and not applied in all situations. The failure to retreat is not proof of guilt, but a circumstance to be considered. The need for retreat in self-defense depends on the type of force used by the accused. The burden of proof is on the defendant to provide evidence supporting self-defense. The jury instruction in the case regarding the defendant's duty to retreat in self-defense was too abstract and did not consider the specific factual circumstances of the encounter. The instruction was incorrect and may have affected the jury's decision.
The conviction was reversed due to an unclear jury charge and the defendant not being allowed to present evidence related to their medical conditions. A specific objection is required to preserve the right to appellate review, but exceptions may apply. The examining attorney must make a specific offer of what they expect to prove by the answer of the witness. The State's objection to a question asked of the defendant during trial was unsound. The common-law rule that denied a party to a controversy the right to testify has been abolished. The judgment is reversed and remanded for further proceedings.
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