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In re B.M.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, First District, Hamilton

May 4, 2018

IN RE: B.M.

          Appeal From: Hamilton County Juvenile Court TRIAL NO. 16-4971X

          Joseph 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, for Appellant.

          OPINION

          Miller, Judge.

         {¶1} 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.

         Facts

         {¶2} 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.

         {¶3} 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.

         {¶4} 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.

         Analysis

         {¶5} 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.

         {¶6} 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 deadly force.

         {¶7} 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.

         {¶8} 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 ...


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