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State v. King

Supreme Court of Montana

December 13, 2016

STATE OF MONTANA, Plaintiff and Appellee,
v.
JUSTIN DWAYNE KING, Defendant and Appellant.

          Submitted on Briefs: November 10, 2016

         District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, In and For the County of Missoula, Cause No. DC 2013-564 Honorable Ed McLean, Presiding Judge

          Chad Wright, Chief Appellate Defender, Lisa S. Korchinski, Assistant Appellate Defender, Helena, Montana

          Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, Tammy K Plubell, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana

          Kirsten H. Pabst, Missoula County Attorney, Patricia Bower, Deputy County Attorney, Missoula, Montana

          OPINION

          Michael E Wheat Justice

         ¶1 The Fourth Judicial District Court, Missoula County, conducted a jury trial for misdemeanor Assault and felony Assault with a Weapon against Justin Dwayne King (King). The jury returned a verdict of guilty for felony Assault with a Weapon. King appeals, alleging that the District Court improperly instructed the jury on the affirmative defense of justifiable use of force. We affirm.

         ¶2 We address the following issue on appeal:

Did the District Court properly instruct the jury on the affirmative defense of justifiable use of force, based on all the facts presented at trial?

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         ¶3 In the fall of 2013, David Colaprete (Colaprete) and his girlfriend Mozelle Stewart (Stewart) moved to a homeless camp under the Reserve Street Bridge in Missoula, Montana. Colaprete met King and invited him to camp with him and Stewart at their campsite. One day, Colaprete found food in their shared cooler and ate it, believing that it had been left behind by a friend who had recently moved. The food actually belonged to King, who began yelling at Colaprete and Stewart when he discovered his food had been eaten. The relationship between Colaprete, Stewart and King became strained after this incident. King became verbally abusive towards Stewart and continuously accused Colaprete and Stewart of taking his things.

         ¶4 On October 17, 2013, Colaprete left the campsite briefly and returned to find Stewart with a friend of King's. Stewart was uncomfortable with the stranger's presence in their camp. King was down by the river and Colaprete yelled down to him that he needed to leave the campsite because it was not working out having him there. Colaprete and King began arguing and, when Colaprete finally turned around and began to walk away, King hit Colaprete repeatedly with a metal object. After hitting Colaprete several times with the object, King left the area. Colaprete called 911 and was taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital, where he received stitches and staples for his head injuries.

         ¶5 On October 18, 2013, King was stopped by the Missoula Police Department and arrested after he admitted to beating up a person with a pipe. He did not tell the officer that he was acting in self-defense. On November 5, 2013, the State filed an information charging King with felony Assault with a Weapon. King pled not guilty and filed notice of his intent to rely on the affirmative defense of justifiable use of force. At trial, he claimed that he attacked Colaprete with a metal rod because Colaprete had threatened him and he was afraid that Colaprete was about to attack him with a knife. He also testified that once the fight ensued, Colaprete grabbed him and wouldn't let him leave the area. Colaprete, on the other hand, testified that he did not threaten King and that he returned to his tent to deescalate the situation. He also testified that he was not armed with a knife and did not recall grabbing at King during the attack.

         ¶6 On the first day of trial, the District Court settled jury instructions. Along with other jury instructions on justifiable use of force, the District Court gave Jury ...


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