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Defense of Self – Violent Acts of Victim – McMorris Evidence

State v. Debra Ann Head, 2002 WI 99, reversing 2000 WI App 275, 240 Wis. 2d 162, 622 N.W.2d 9
For Head: John D. Hyland, Marcus J. Berghan

Issue/Holding:

¶123. We conclude that evidence of a victim’s violent character and of the victim’s prior acts of violence of which a defendant has knowledge should be considered in determining whether a sufficient factual basis exists to raise a claim of self-defense. Such evidence may be probative of a defendant’s state of mind and whether she actually believed that an unlawful interference was occurring, that danger of death or great bodily harm was imminent, or that she needed to use a given amount of defensive force to prevent or terminate the unlawful interference. In determining any of these issues, the circuit court should consider all the evidence proffered.

The deceased’s verbal threats and physical violence against both the defendant and others, though not contemporaneous with the charged event, “was clearly sufficient to raise the issue of imperfect self-defense” and to require both the admission of at least some of this McMorris evidence and a jury instruction on imperfect self-defense. ¶¶138-141

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