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State v. Stietz, 2014AP2701-CR, petition for review granted, 10/11/16

Review of a per curiam opinion; case activity (including briefs); petition for review

Issues (from Stietz’s petition):

1. On the facts of this case, did the court of appeals deny Stietz’s federal and state constitutional rights to present a complete defense of self-defense, and contradict controlling precedent of this Court in State v. Mendoza, 80 Wis. 2d 122, 258 N.W.2d 260 (1977), by weighing Stietz’s credibility and requiring more than “some evidence,” even if inconsistent, to support a self-defense instruction?

2. On the facts of this case, did the court of appeals deny Stietz’s federal and state constitutional rights to present a defense by forbidding argument that Stietz was defending himself against two men he reasonably believed were armed trespassers?

3. On the facts of this case the court of appeals contradict this Court’s controlling decision in State v. Hobson, 218 Wis. 2d 350, 577 N.W.2d 825 (1998), by foreclosing self-defense against wardens who: (a) the accused did not know were law enforcement officers, on evidence the jury was entitled to credit; (b) were not even claiming to make an arrest, but only were trying to disarm a man without apparent right; and (c) were not acting peaceably in any event, but rather were trying violently to disarm a lawfully armed man?

So what are the facts of this case?  After dusk on the last day of dear hunting season two men in blaze orange approached Stietz on his 25-acre, wooded parcel in Lafayette County. Sietz had a lot of problems with trespassers.  So when the two men asked him to give up his rifle, he refused. One grabbed his rifle. Then both pointed handguns at him. He drew his own handgun. Turns out the armed men were DNR wardens so Stietz was charged with pointing a firearm at a law enforcement officer.

The court of appeals denied Stietz a self-defense instruction because his supporting testimony was ambiguous and subject to conflicting interpretations. But Mendoza teaches that when determining whether a defendant is entitled to a self-defense instruction, lower courts are to view the evidence in the light most favorable to to the defendant and the instruction. Mendoza, 80 Wis. 2d at 152-153. The defendant should get the instruction even though the supporting evidence is “slight, weak, insufficient, inconsistent, or of doubtful credibility.” State v. Schuman, 226 Wis. 2d 398, 404 and n.3, 595 N.W.2d 86 (Ct. App. 1999).

As for the third issue, Stietz argues that Hobson abrogated the common law right to physically resist a peaceable arrest. However, contrary to the court of appeals decision here, Hobson did not abrogate “the right to self-defense in a situation where law enforcement personnel were not attempting an arrest and were not acting peaceably or lawfully when they used unreasonable force to wrest Stietz’s rifle away from him, and were not even known to be law enforcement officers by the citizen they accosted.” (Petition at ix).

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{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Peter R Heyne October 12, 2016, 8:33 pm

    “Turns out the armed men were DNA wardens…” Man, the State really is serious about DNA collection/surcharges! 😉 I assume that they were *DNR* wardens…

  • admin October 12, 2016, 9:46 pm

    Right you are! Post corrected.

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