Defendant was charged with murder in the second degree, in violation of § 76-5-203, Utah Code Ann. (1953), as amended, and tried and found guilty of the lesser included offense of manslaughter. Defendant appeals on the ground that the trial court improperly instructed the jury as to self-defense and burden of proof.
Kaylene Griggs, a friend of defendant, worked at the Golden Fleece, a bar located directly above the establishment at which defendant was employed. On the evening of September 29, 1978, defendant was to pick up Ms. Griggs in order for her to wave his hair. When defendant called Ms. Griggs from downstairs to inform her he was ready to pick her up, she asked him to come upstairs to get her because she was being bothered by her ex-boyfriend, Joe Boykin. Defendant went upstairs, then left the bar with Ms. Griggs and proceeded out to the car, and Boykin followed. Boykin grabbed Ms. Griggs' arm after she was seated in the car and pulled her out. As Boykin pulled his fist back as if to strike, defendant raised his arm up toward him. Ms. Griggs testified that defendant told Boykin "if he wanted to talk to [her] to talk to [her] on his own time that right now [she] was on his time." When Boykin asked if Starks was Ms. Griggs' "old man," he told Boykin that he was not, and added: "[I]f I was I would treat her a lot better than you have."
Defendant testified that he shot Boykin because he believed Boykin was reaching into his pocket for a gun. Defendant explained the circumstances surrounding the shooting as follows: While defendant still had both hands on Ms. Griggs in an attempt to free her from Boykin, Boykin stuck his hand in his own pocket and told defendant not to put his hands in his pocket. When Boykin made that statement, defendant turned Ms. Griggs loose and stuck his hand in his pocket for his gun. Defendant pulled the gun out of the pocket but did not shoot immediately. He testified:
After those three shots, Boykin started running backwards with his hand still in his pocket. Defendant chased him and Boykin turned around to run across the street, pulling his hands out of his pocket:
Dr. Serge Moore, the pathologist who conducted the autopsy, testified that although four shots entered the victim's body, the fatal shot entered the left thigh and severed an artery.
Defendant adduced evidence demonstrating the violent propensities of Boykin and defendant's knowledge of certain instances of Boykin's violence. Additionally, defendant testified that he had been told that Boykin possessed a gun. Ms. Griggs also testified that she heard Boykin say that he had refused to lend his gun to a friend because he felt he was going to need it.
The trial court gave the jury an instruction on self-defense. The instruction, worded in the exact terms of the statute setting forth the elements of self-defense, included the proposition that self-defense is not a justification when the defendant is the aggressor or engaged in combat by agreement. See § 76-2-402, Utah Code Ann. (1953), as amended.
Defendant contends that the portion of the instruction relating to aggression and mutual combat should not have been given in the instant case because it was not supported by the evidence. We disagree.
According to State v. Schoenfeld, Utah, 545 P.2d 193 (1976), one who willingly and knowingly provokes a combat may be an aggressor, and if one who initially was a nonaggressor escalates a fight beyond a level which would be justified in view of the nature of the original provocation, then he loses the right to claim the defense of self-defense. Ruff v. State, 65 Wis.2d 713, 223 N.W.2d 446 (1974).
Nevertheless, defendant's verbal and physical acts at the scene of the homicide were sufficient to justify the instruction that if the defendant were found to be the aggressor he could not rely on the defense of self-defense. Even if defendant were initially justified in drawing the gun, the fact that Boykin did not produce a gun, but rather "jumped around" and told defendant, to put his gun away during the time defendant was trying to figure out how to operate his gun, could have been viewed by the jury as making the defendant the aggressor at that point in the encounter. The ensuing "chase" during which defendant fired additional shots also supports the conclusion that the defendant was the aggressor.
Defendant's second contention is that he was wrongly refused an instruction which would have apprised the jury that it could consider defendant's prior knowledge of the violent propensities of the victim in evaluating the reasonableness of defendant's apprehension at the time of the fatal encounter.
The error, however, in failing to give the requested instruction did not, under the facts of this case, result in prejudice. We reach that conclusion based on two grounds. First, although the instructions given did not explicitly refer to the relevance of prior events, they did not foreclose consideration of such knowledge and events. Indeed the language of the instructions was sufficiently broad to allow such information to be considered by the jury in its determination of the overall reasonableness of defendant's conduct. Second, availability of the defense of self-defense in the instant case turned on whether the defendant harbored a reasonable expectancy of imminent danger, notwithstanding his knowledge of decedent's prior violent acts. On the facts of this case no such conclusion can be sustained. The right to self-defense ceases when the danger has passed or ceased to be imminent. State v. Locke, 7 Or.App. 366,
Defendant's next claim is that the court erred in not instructing that the defendant could be found guilty only if on the evidence there was no reasonable alternative hypothesis to that of guilt. Defendant claims that the failure to give the instruction caused the jury to misconstrue defendant's burden regarding the claim of self-defense. Clearly, a defendant does not bear the burden of persuasion in presenting an affirmative defense. A fundamental precept of our criminal law is that the State must prove all elements of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. State v. Torres, Utah, 619 P.2d 694 (1980). The defendant's evidence, whether it simply controverts the State's case or asserts an affirmative defense, need only raise a reasonable doubt as to any element of the crime to justify an acquittal. State v. Torres, supra; State v. Curtis, Utah, 542 P.2d 744 (1975). The prosecutor's burden, on the other hand, whether the evidence be direct or circumstantial, or a combination thereof, is to prove all elements of the crime charged beyond a reasonable doubt, whether the defense is a denial or an affirmative defense. State v. Torres, supra; State v. Eagle, Utah, 611 P.2d 1211 (1980).
An instruction based on the reasonable alternative hypothesis test is appropriate when proof of a material issue is based solely on circumstantial evidence, State v. Bender, Utah, 581 P.2d 1019 (1978); State v. Garcia, 11 Utah.2d 67, 355 P.2d 57 (1960). Generally, other forms of instructions can effectively accomplish the same purpose of conveying to the jury the meaning of "proof beyond a reasonable doubt." State v. Eagle, supra. The testimony presented at trial does not support defendant's claim that the evidence was wholly circumstantial, and the instruction given to the jury on burden of proof as it relates to self-defense properly conveyed the meaning of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
Finally, defendant's claim of prejudice resulting from cumulative errors fails because there was no error in the instructions given the jury.
The judgment is affirmed.
HALL, J., and DURHAM, District Judge, concur.
MAUGHAN, C.J., does not participate herein.
DURHAM, District Judge, sat.
CROCKETT and WILKINS, JJ., heard the arguments but retired before the opinion was filed.
The instruction, as given, read in pertinent part: