Home / Opinion Digests / Criminal Law / Shooting in Own Home Was Self-Defense

Shooting in Own Home Was Self-Defense

The Supreme Court of Virginia reverses defendant’s convictions of voluntary man­slaughter and shooting another person in violation of Va. Code 18.2-53, as defendant proved that he shot the victim in self-de­fense; the record shows that the victim, while in defendant’s home, was belliger­ent, had been drinking and brandishing a gun in the presence of defendant, his wife and sister, and when defendant retrieved his own gun from another room in order to protect himself and his family, the victim was pointing the gun at defendant when defendant reentered the room.

Because the trial court’s conclusion that defendant did not shoot the victim in self-defense is contrary to the evidence and not supported by the record, we find the court’s judgment is plainly wrong. When a party assaults a homeowner in his own home, as in this case, the homeowner has the right to use whatever force neces­sary to repel the aggressor.

In its letter opinion, the trial court de­termined that defendant’s testimony “was credible.” In its findings of fact, the trial court recited that defendant testified that he went to the other room to retrieve his gun because he planned to confront the victim with his own weapon in the belief that the victim would put his weapon down and calm down once he realized de­fendant was armed, and that he had “con­cern” for his sister and wife who remained in the room with the victim who was bran­dishing a gun.

Trial testimony

At trial, defendant repeatedly testified that when he reentered the room with his gun, the victim pointed his gun at defen­dant and at that point in time, defendant feared for his life and shot the victim. The trial court’s letter opinion also stated, as a matter of fact, that defendant’s wife’s statement to a 911 operator that the vic­tim had “pulled a gun on her husband and her husband had shot him … confirmed Defendant’s account of what happened.” This testimony, considered credible and accepted by the trial court, demonstrates that while defendant was concerned for the safety of his family members, his fear of imminent death or bodily injury from the victim arose when he returned to the room and the victim pointed a gun at him.

There is nothing in the record to sup­port the trial court’s statements in its conclusions of law that defendant re­turned “to the room with a gun pointed at the victim.” The record does not support the trial court’s conclusion that the vic­tim had not taken “an overt step” to sug­gest an immediate threat to defendant’s safety. The trial court’s conclusion that defendant failed to establish his claim of self-defense is plainly wrong and is not supported by the record.

In this case, the victim was brandish­ing a weapon in defendant’s own home, and defendant exercised his right to de­fend himself, his family and his home with appropriate force.

Hines v. Commonwealth (Lacy) No. 151066, Oct. 27, 2016; Va. Ct. App.; Jon M. Babineau for appellant; Leah A. Darron, Sr. AAG; Mark R. Herring, AG, for appel­lee. VLW 016-6-081, 6 pp.

VLW 016-6-081