Court of Appeals of Ohio, First District, Hamilton
From: Hamilton County Juvenile Court TRIAL NO. 16-4971X
T. Deters, Hamilton County Prosecuting Attorney, and Alex
Scott Havlin, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for Appellee,
Raymond T. Faller, Hamilton County Public Defender, Sarah N
Weber and Julie Kahrs Nessler, Assistant Public Defenders,
Following a bench trial before a magistrate, 14-year-old B.M.
was adjudicated delinquent for committing an act that had she
been an adult would have constituted felonious assault. B.M.
now claims that the juvenile court's delinquency finding
was against the manifest weight of the evidence. For the
following reasons, we reverse B.M.'s adjudication.
B.M. lived with her mother, S.W., stepfather, L.W., and her
sister. One day, B.M. and her sister neglected to lock the
front door when they went to the library. L.W. returned home
from work and found the house unlocked. When B.M. returned
home, L.W. confronted her about the door and attempted to
poke her. B.M. swung at L.W. L.W. was not permitted by S.W.
to physically discipline B.M. L.W. told B.M. to go upstairs
to her room to wait until her mother was home. B.M. complied.
When S.W. returned home, B.M. was called downstairs to
discuss the matter. L.W. became angry and started yelling in
B.M.'s face. B.M.'s hands were at her sides. She
stepped back, her hands still down. L.W. grabbed B.M. and
wrapped his arms around her body, with one arm around her
neck. B.M. had trouble talking and breathing. B.M. said L.W.
was attempting to pull her down. B.M. then stabbed L.W. twice
with a steak knife that she had in her pocket. She wounded
L.W. near his elbow and in the upper thigh.
B.M. claimed that she acted in self-defense, only stabbing
L.W. to free herself from his chokehold. The magistrate
disagreed, finding that B.M. failed to establish each element
of the affirmative defense of self-defense with nondeadly
force. Over B.M.'s objections, the juvenile court adopted
the magistrate's decision. B.M. now appeals.
In her first assignment of error, B.M. claims that the
juvenile court erred as a matter of law in adjudicating her
delinquent of felonious assault because the evidence
demonstrated that she acted in self-defense.
As an initial matter, there are two affirmative defenses for
self-defense. The juvenile court incorrectly applied the
standard for self-defense using nondeadly force. Both B.M.
and the state argue this is error, and agree that the correct
affirmative defense under these facts is self-defense using
Under R.C. 2901.01(A)(2), "deadly force" means any
force that carries a substantial risk that it will
proximately result in the death of any person. The
application of the deadly-force standard for self-defense is
appropriate when a defendant has been charged with felonious
assault for harming someone with a knife. See In re
Bumpus, 1st Dist. Hamilton No. C-020776, 2003-Ohio-4307
(deadly-force standard used where juvenile used knife to stab
victim in the torso and shoulder); State v. Hansen,
4th Dist. Athens No. 01CA15, 2002-Ohio-6135 (deadly-force
jury instruction given where defendant slashed victim with a
lock-blade knife); State v. Sims, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga
No. 85608, 2005-Ohio-5846 (deadly-force jury instruction
appropriate where defendant used kitchen knife to stab victim
in the face as he lunged at her). Here, B.M. stabbed her
stepfather with a steak knife in his arm and in the upper
thigh. We find that self-defense using deadly force is the
applicable affirmative defense.
In order to establish the affirmative defense of self-defense
using deadly force, B.M. had to prove by a preponderance of
the evidence that (1) she was not at fault in creating the
situation giving rise to the assault; (2) she had a bona fide
belief that she was in imminent danger of death or great
bodily harm and her only means of escape from such danger was
in the use ...