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State v. Wolf

Court of Appeals of Oregon

November 1, 2017

STATE OF OREGON, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
RANDALL CARL WOLF, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued and submitted December 6, 2016, De La Salle High School, Portland.

         Umatilla County Circuit Court AP140002Lynn W. Hampton, Judge.

          Anna Melichar, Deputy Public Defender, argued the cause for appellant. With her on the briefs was Ernest G. Lannet, Chief Defender, Criminal Appellate Section, Offce of Public Defense Services.

          Keith L. Kutler, Assistant Attorney General, argued the cause for respondent. With him on the brief were Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General, and Benjamin Gutman, Solicitor General.

          Before Ortega, Presiding Judge, and Egan, Judge, and Lagesen, Judge.

         Case Summary: Defendant appeals a judgment of conviction for fourth-degree assault, ORS 163.160, assigning error to the trial court's refusal to instruct the jury on self-defense. Held: The trial court erred by not instructing the jury on self-defense. Once a defendant has properly raised a defense of self-defense, under ORS 161.055, it is the state's burden to disprove the defense beyond a reasonable doubt. The evidentiary threshold for a defendant seeking the instruction is low; the evidence must be such that, when the record as a whole is viewed in the light most favorable to the defendant, it would be rational for a factfnder to find that the state had not met its burden of proving that self-defense does not apply. Under that standard, the evidence was sufficient to require the trial court to give the instruction.

         Reversed and remanded.

         [288 Or. 614] LAGESEN, J.

         Defendant appeals a judgment of conviction for fourth-degree assault, ORS 163.160.[1] Before trial, defendant raised the defense of self-defense by providing notice in writing to the state and requested that the trial court deliver Oregon Uniform Criminal Jury Instruction 1107 on self-defense.[2] The trial court declined to instruct the jury on self-defense, concluding that the evidence did not support the instruction. On appeal, defendant assigns error to the trial court's refusal to instruct the jury on self-defense. For the reasons that follow, we agree with defendant that the jury should have been instructed on self-defense and that the trial court's failure to deliver the instruction was not harmless. We therefore reverse and remand.

         Defendant struck Koskela, the maintenance man for defendant's apartment building, while Koskela was fixing something in the apartment of McDuffie, another tenant. Koskela's resulting injuries included scratches, cuts, back spasms, and pulled muscles. Defendant was McDuffie's Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor. This much is not disputed. What is disputed, and was disputed at trial, are the circumstances surrounding defendant's act of striking Koskela.

         According to Koskela, defendant was arguing with him due to a dispute regarding Koskela's maintenance duties. Defendant entered the apartment unexpectedly and started "screaming obscenities and flailing." Koskela asked defendant to leave, but defendant hit Koskela instead. At one point, defendant pulled Koskela to the ground, which was severely painful for Koskela because of a preexisting back condition. Koskela pulled a gun on defendant, but defendant persisted in coming after Koskela. Defendant [288 Or. 615] then exhibited signs of a seizure, which Koskela believed was faked. Defendant's partner, Hudson, entered the apartment and escorted defendant out of the apartment. The whole event lasted three to five minutes.

         According to McDuffie, defendant had entered her apartment without permission and immediately started attacking Koskela. The altercation lasted 15 or 20 minutes before Koskela pulled a gun. During that altercation, defendant had a two-minute seizure, also believed by McDuffie to be faked, and then got up and went after Koskela again, attacking him for another 10 minutes. It was then that Koskela pulled a gun. During the altercation, defendant threw Koskela against the kitchen sink, causing him to fall to the ground.

         According to defendant, he had entered the apartment on McDuffie's invitation. Defendant had spent most of the day counseling McDuffie, because she had been contemplating drinking again, but had taken a break to eat and unwind in his own apartment. During that time, Koskela arrived at McDuffie's apartment. When defendant returned to McDuffie's apartment (he had called her first and she had told him to come over), Koskela "aggressively" told defendant to leave, but defendant said that he would not leave until he spoke with McDuffie. After that point, defendant does not remember what happened because he had a seizure and blacked out. When he came to, his partner, Hudson, was tending to him.

         According to Hudson, shortly before defendant hit Koskela, defendant had come to the door to let Hudson into the apartment building. Defendant went back into the building while Hudson finished his cigarette. Approximately two minutes later, Hudson heard yelling between two people coming from the direction of McDuffie's apartment. Hudson knew that defendant was counseling McDuffie, and he went to her apartment. There, he saw Koskela pointing a pistol at defendant; defendant then "reached out, popped him one, turned around, took two steps, and went into a seizure." Hudson tended to defendant during and after the seizure, and he helped defendant ...


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