Judges have wide discretion regarding when and whether to use tendered jury instructions, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled in affirming the conviction of a criminal defendant whose proffered instructions on defense of another were rejected.
In Jamar Washington v. State of Indiana, 49S02-1212-CR-669, Washington appealed a Marion Superior judge’s decision not to use tendered jury instructions and instead rely on the Indiana Pattern Jury Instruction.
Washington was convicted of two counts of resisting law enforcement, one count of battery on a law enforcement officer resulting in injury one count of disorderly conduct after a melee in downtown Indianapolis. The mother of his then-8-month-old son confronted him outside a nightclub and handed the child to someone else as fighting ensued.
A police officer grabbed the mother from behind in an attempt to break up the fighting, and Washington said he didn’t know the woman had handed the baby to someone else when he grabbed the officer by the neck in an attempt to pull him off the woman.
Washington’s tendered jury instructions included the observation that someone defending another “will not be accountable for an error in judgment as to the need to use force or the amount of force necessary.” The trial court found Washington’s tendered instructions cumulative and unnecessary in light of the pattern instructions.
“We hold that the Indiana Pattern Jury Instruction is a correct statement of the law and continues to serve as the primary guide for our trial judges on this issue,” Justice Steven David wrote for the unanimous court. “It contains language which compliments the self-defense or defense of another statute regarding the factors as they existed in the mind of the defendant balanced against whether such belief was reasonable.
“Trial courts continue to have the discretion to augment the pattern instructions whenever they deem appropriate and to refuse any tendered instructions,” the court held. “Their decisions will be reviewed for an abuse of discretion.”
Justices remanded the case to correct the sentencing abstract that reflects conviction of resisting law enforcement as a Class D felony that should be entered as a Class A misdemeanor.