posted 2017 | S.P. v. State
A terrific victory which was undoubtedly won solely because of good lawyering and knowledge of the often confusing self-defense laws. The client was charged with committing burglary and misdemeanor battery. The client was charged with burglary for entering his neighbor’s residence during a fight, which was the battery charge. At trial, defense counsel argued that the client acted in self-defense and was entitled to rely on this defense for both offenses. The trial court only allowed the jury to be instructed with self-defense for the misdemeanor battery offense.
The jury rejected this defense, the client was convicted and he was sentenced to prison. Mr. Forman was hired on appeal and informed the client and his family that he was concerned that the rejection of the self-defense for the battery offense would result in a finding of harmless error on appeal. In other words, even if the court improperly denied the request for the jury instruction, the jury would have nevertheless convicted the client since they did not find that the client acted in self-defense for the battery offense.
However, while reviewing the record, Mr. Forman noticed that the instruction given to the jury was erroneous because it contained an extra comma – an error that was previously recognized by appellate courts throughout the state. Neither the trial judge, the prosecutor, nor defense counsel noticed this small detail.
As a result of this error, Mr. Forman was able to convince the three judge appellate court to reverse the client’s conviction and prison sentence and grant a new trial. Mr. Forman argued that the erroneous instruction could have resulted in the rejection of the defense by the jury and therefore, the error in denying the instruction was not harmless. Without Mr. Forman’s ability to recognize that the instruction had an additional comma, then the court would have denied the appeal. Obviously, the client and his family are happy with the result! Just another example of how important it is to hire the right appellate lawyer, not just any lawyer.