Jury Rejects Fort Worth Man’s Self-Defense Claim

This week a Tarrant County jury rejected Johnny Patton’s self defense claims and found him guilty of the murder of Richard Slatkin and sentenced him to life in prison. The trial included testimony of a complicated love triangle. Patton was dating Slatkin’s ex-wife. The two men were jealous of one another and apparently both had tempers. Prior to the shooting Patton had called the police numerous times telling them Slatkin had threatened him and wanted the police to arrest him.

Prosecutors argued that the 911 calls showed that Patton was hunting Slakin and intentionally murdering him rather that acting in self-defense. On one 911 call the operator asked Patton if Slakin was armed and he relied ” I will tell you in a minute”. Texas self-defense law can work in a defendant’s favor but it is still a tough defense in a murder case.

Texas law does allow prior violent acts committed by the victim when there is a factual dispute of who the first aggressor is. Also prior threats or run ins between the two parties can be admissible. By the same token prior bad acts by the defendant may also become admissible which could severely hurt the defendant. In this case the prosecution was able to put on the defendant’s estranged wife who told the jury that Patton always carried a gun and had been violent with her on many occasions in the past. This type of testimony had to damage the Patton’s self-defense claim. I am sure the admission of that evidence will be a major area the defendant’s  appeal will be  focused on.

In self defense cases a jury is instructed to consider the evidence from the defendants point of view. However they are also instructed that they must believe a reasonable man would have acted the in the same manner. In this case it appears that the 911 calls and the defendant’s wives testimony destroyed his self defense claim. Once the jury believed this was an intentional killing done out of malice they showed no mercy.

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