Failure to Instruct Jurors about Involuntary Manslaughter Requires New Trial

On April 23, 2014, the South Carolina Court of Appeals decided State v. Battle and ordered a new trial for a man convicted of murder because the trial judge did not instruct the jurors about involuntary manslaughter.

Battle testified that the decedent pointed a handgun at him.  Battle grabbed the gun, and a struggle ensued.  Battle maintained that the he did not intend the kill the decedent.  He also maintained that the decedent was shot with his own gun.  The prosecution contested this fact, pointing out that the handgun found at the incident location was fully loaded.

The Court of Appeals observed, “[T]he evidence in the present case does not support one clear-cut conclusion.”  The Court held that the trial court should have instructed the jurors about involuntary manslaughter.

Battle is an important reminder that the trial judge should instruct the jurors based on the presence of evidence and not the judge’s view of the weight of the evidence.

Please click here to read the Court of Appeals opinion in State v. Battle.