Self-defense is a valid defense to an Assault charge and The Haggard Law Firm has employed it successfully in different types of Assault cases in Houston. But when the charge is Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon and the weapon employed was a knife or a gun used to inflict serious wounds, and sometimes death, proving self-defense becomes trickier. The crime scene is especially important in such cases but unfortunately key elements of it are often badly preserved by police agencies. But with a good criminal defense attorney and experts when necessary even an ill-preserved crime scene can still be mined for a successful self-defense strategy against aggravated assault.
Aspects of Self-Defense to Assault
Several elements, most of them able to be gleaned from the crime scene, must be successfully proved to prosecutors or jurors to win on a self-defensive argument.
1. In the case of stabbing or gunshot wounds we must prove that at the moment our client used his weapon to inflict serious injury – and with a sufficient threat to his life to justify the use of deadly force.
2. We must prove the intent of our client at the time he used his weapon was self-preservation from injury or death. Proving anyone’s intent beyond a reasonable doubt can be difficult, but a good defense attorney will use everything available, such as witness statements and even seemingly insignificant physical actions, affects, or motions of the client prior to the actual self-defensive actions.
For example, we generally use the first statements adverse witnesses make to police. Changes in witness statements after the first are always suspect and if that happens at any point in the case we use it to the fullest in our defense.
We are also careful to clarify for the prosecutors or jurors the reasons for any actions, affects, or motions of our client prior to the actual self-defensive actions made the subject of the case. Nothing is insignificant. For instance, if an adverse witness testifies our client was shaking from anger we are careful to argue that it was from fear: bringing in any background information on the relationship between the parties necessary to substantiate our position.
3. Another problematic area is working with a multitude of witnesses who see or emphasize something different in their testimony, due to natural differences in perception, memory, bias for or against our client, and the physical location of the witness in relation to the incident. We argue any significant differences in witness statements stemming from these variables to successfully reconcile conflicting statements wherever possible.
4. When adverse eyewitness testimony is in direct conflict with our client’s version of events we must turn to an analysis of the physical evidence, using experts when necessary.
In aggravated assault cases we have handled where the Complainant has died by gunshot wounds we have the autopsy of the medical examiner for a description of the wounds and how exactly they caused him to die. But there is more information that we need that an autopsy can’t give us.
Expert Analysis in Self-Defense Cases
When necessary we turn to crime scene analysts and forensic pathologists. A forensic pathologist will testify about things like blood spatter, and (in the case of gunshot wounds) the effects they had on the Complainant before he died, such as whether they caused him to collapse and whether he was still able to be combative. A pathologist can also describe bullet trajectories, which bullet struck first (in the case of more than one) and the distance the gun was from the Complainant. This last is extremely important to determine since if it can be proved the shots were fired at close-range we have proved a clear and present threat, whereas shots fired from a distance indicate the shooter was in a position of relative physical safety and may not have been acting out of self-defense.
Together with a good crime scene analyst we pull together all the evidence to explain what happened, sometimes in very creative ways using scene reenactments when necessary.
A good forensic gunshot wound expert will be able to demonstrate conclusively, for instance, that a bullet that grazed the Complainant’s body and did not pierce his arm was because that Complainant’s arm was raised about the bullet’s path of trajectory – in the process of aiming another blow on our client who was only defending himself.
Hiring an Experienced Assault Defense Lawyer
In defending the most difficult self-defense cases, it takes the combined expertise of an experienced defense attorney, investigator, crime scene analyst and other forensic experts to ensure that justice is done. If you are currently being charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in Houston, Harris County, or surrounding areas contact Carl Haggard today by email or call (832) 328-0600 for a free consultation about your case. Carl is an Ex-Chief District Prosecutor with over 30 years of winning experience defending clients against assault in Texas.