In a recent opinion, the Court of Appeals of Washington decided the issue of whether a defendant is entitled to a self-defense instruction when only the state produces evidence of self-defense. In State v. Thysell (Wash. Ct. App. June 9, 2016), the defendant was charged with fourth-degree assault, domestic violence, after a physical altercation between the defendant and her daughter. At trial, the defendant requested a jury instruction on self-defense. The prosecution objected, arguing that the defendant presented no evidence of self-defense, and any testimony that could arguably support such an instruction came through the state’s witness, the defendant’s daughter. The trial court ruled in favor of the state and denied any instruction to the jury on self-defense. The jury subsequently found the defendant guilty of fourth-degree assault, domestic violence.
On appeal, the defendant contended that the trial court erred by denying a self-defense instruction on the basis that she failed to produce the evidence on which her instruction was based. She argued that it was irrelevant who produced the evidence, as long as the evidence is sufficient to warrant a jury instruction on self-defense. The prosecution, in response, argued that a defendant is not entitled to a self-defense instruction unless she produces the evidence based on which the instruction would be warranted.