United States v. Peterson
483 F.2d 1222 (1973)

  • Keitt and two cronies were in Peterson’s yard, stealing the windshield wipers off Peterson’s car. Peterson came out and told them to leave. Peterson went back in the house and came out with a gun and threatened Keitt. Although Keitt was about to leave, when he saw the gun, he confronted Peterson with a lug wrench. Peterson shot him in the face and killed him instantly.
    • Keitt was on Peterson’s property when he was shot.
  • Peterson was arrested and charged with second-degree murder.
  • The Trial Court convicted Peterson of manslaughter. He appealed.
    • Peterson argued that the shooting was in self-defense.
  • The Appellate Court upheld the conviction.
    • The Appellate Court found that a person cannot use self-defense as a justification if they were the aggressor in the conflict.
      • In this case, Keitt was about to leave when Peterson came back out and provoked the attack.
      • “An affirmative lawful act reasonably calculated to produce an affray foreboding injurious or fatal consequences is an aggression which, unless renounced, nullifies the right of homicidal self defense.”
  • Under Model Penal Code §3.04(2)(b)(i), self-defense is not available as a justification if the actor, with the purpose of causing death or serious bodily harm, provoked the use of force against himself in the same encounter.
    • So basically, you can still use self-defense even if you provoked the encounter, as long as you didn’t provoke it just to give you an excuse to kill the guy.