Two Ways To Prove Self-Defense Without The Defendant Testifying

Under Texas Self-Defense law the defendant must almost always testify at trial in order to get a self-defense instruction to a jury. At the close of a jury trial the judge submits the court’s charge to the jury which contains all the law the jury will consider for that particular case. The issue of self-defense often arises in murder and assault cases. The defense does not automatically get a self-defense instruction before the jury unless there has been evidence presented to the jury on that issue.

Some times a criminal lawyer may try and get the issue of self-defense before the jury with-out calling the defendant as a witness. There many reason’s for this. The defendant might not do well on the witness stand. The defendant may have past criminal convictions which could be brought up on cross-examination or his testimony may open the door for extraneous offenses. The issue of self-defense can get before the jury in two ways:

1. The defendant’s statement. Many times the defendant has given a statement to detectives in which he tells them he acted in self-defense. Prosecutors will often not offer a defendant’s statement if the issue of self-defense would be raised. If they can prove their case with out the statement they will hold the statement back and try to force the defendant to the stand so they have the opportunity to cross-examine the defendant. If the prosecutor does introduce the defendant’s statement and self-defense is raised then the jury will get an instruction on self-defense.

2. Through eye witness testimony. If there has been testimony from eye witnesses that describe the defendant acting in self-defense the jury will get the self-defense instruction with out the defendant testifying. An example would be a witness testifying they saw the victim with a gun in his hand and heard the defendant say he didn’t want to fight. Smith v Texas 676 SW 2d 584. I

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