In a recent Massachusetts appellate case, the defendant was convicted of assault and battery on a girlfriend. He appealed on the grounds that the conviction was a result of speculation and conjecture and that there were no findings to support it.
The appellate court explained that after a defendant raises self-defense while being prosecuted for assault and battery, the burden shifts to the prosecutor to show the defendant didn’t act in self-defense. This requires the prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant didn’t use all appropriate ways to avoid physical fighting before resorting to the use of force. Generally the right of self-defense can’t be claimed by someone who starts the fight or assault unless he withdraws from the fight and lets the other party know that this is what he’s doing.
In this case, the defendant argued that the judge hadn’t properly considered whether he acted in self-defense based on his speculative finding that he and the victim had been involved in a mutual fight, rather than a one-sided attack. He basically argued that the evidence was insufficient on the issue of self-defense. The appellate court reviewed whether a rational fact-finder could find the prosecution proved beyond a reasonable doubt he hadn’t acted to defend himself.