Despite jury instruction error, man’s battery conviction upheld

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Although the trial court erred in giving one jury instruction on self defense that only applies when deadly force is involved, the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed an inmate’s Class A misdemeanor battery conviction because he otherwise couldn’t prove his self-defense claim.

Joseph Dixson was an inmate at Duvall Residential Center, a work-release facility operated by Marion County Community Corrections, when he got into a tussle with security guard Faith Hoosier. Duvall did not follow cafeteria rules when he entered through an undesignated door, so Hoosier requested Dixson leave and return through the designated door. He declined and became rude. She threatened to respond with force if he did not follow her request. He did not comply, so she grabbed him to remove him from the cafeteria and they got into a skirmish. She fell and injured her ankle.

Dixson was charged with and convicted of Class A misdemeanor battery. He claimed self defense at trial, and the court tendered four self-defense instructions. He objected to one that claimed Dixson had to show that he had a reasonable fear of death or great bodily harm.

That instruction was an error, the COA ruled in Joseph Dixson v. State of Indiana, 49A05-1404-CR-184, because the case does not involve deadly force. Instead, the trial court should have instructed the jury that Dixson was required to show that he was protecting himself from what he reasonably believed to be imminent use of unlawful force.

And that jury instruction directly contradicted another given by the court. But the error is harmless because Dixson’s conviction is clearly sustained by the evidence. Here, Dixson did not have the right to be in the Duvall cafeteria where the incident occurred when he disregarded the facility’s protocols for entering the cafeteria and when he disregarded Hoosier’s commands. Because he also did not act without fault, the evidence negates Dixson’s self-defense claim and the jury instruction error did not affect the verdict, the COA held.


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