Vermont Jury Instructions


Evidence has been introduced bearing on the issue of self-defense, as justification for the killing of (victim)_______________.  The State bears the burden of proving that the killing was unlawful.  A killing committed in lawful self-defense is lawful, and not a crime.  Here the State must have proven beyond a reasonable doubt that (Def)_______________ did not act in self-defense.  [He] [She] has no burden of proof on this issue.

A person has the right to defend [himself] [herself] when [he] [she] is attacked, or when [he] [she] reasonably believes [he] [she] is in imminent danger of being killed or suffering great bodily harm.  A person in that situation has the right to use only such force as is reasonably necessary to repel the attack or the perceived imminent danger.

A killing is justified by self-defense if:

(1)  (Def)_______________ reasonably believed that [he] [she] was in imminent danger of being killed or of suffering great bodily harm, and

(2)  (Def)_______________’s use of deadly force was reasonably necessary to repel the perceived threat.

The right of self-defense does not require that a person actually be assaulted, but (Def)_______________ must have believed that [he] [she] was in imminent danger of great bodily harm, and [his] [her] belief must have been reasonable under the circumstances.  [His] [Her] expectation of harm must have been based upon fact, and not on some imaginary fear.  Furthermore, if [he] [she] honestly and reasonably believed it was immediately necessary to use deadly force to protect himself from an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury, the law does not require [him] [her] to retreat.

Self-defense requires that (Def)_______________ must have had a reasonable fear of imminent harm.  In deciding this issue, you may consider what [he] [she] knew about (victim)_______________ at the time.  You may consider any previous interactions, including any aggressive or hostile conduct by (victim)_______________, and any other evidence you consider relevant, including who started the confrontation.

When assessing the reasonableness of (Def)_______________’s fear, you may consider the individual characteristics of (Def)_______________ and (victim)_______________, such as their respective size, gender, age, physical condition, strength, stamina, courage, and assertiveness.

Self-defense permits only the amount of force that is reasonably necessary to repel the perceived harm.  A person may use the amount of force that reasonably appears to be necessary under all of the circumstances known to [him] [her] at the time.  In this case you must decide whether (Def)_______________ reasonably believed it was necessary to use the amount of force that [he] [she] did use.  When a person has reasonable grounds to believe that an assault is imminent, [he] [she] need not wait until it actually occurs before [he] [she] may resort to self-defense.

Once the issue of self-defense appears in the case, the burden is on the State to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that (Def)_______________ did not act in self-defense, or that the force used by (Def)_______________ was excessive under the circumstances.  (Def)_______________ is not required to prove that [he] [she] acted in self-defense.

Emily BrancaVermont