Fri. Dec 4th, 2020

Ruling: Defense against excessive force by police is viable

SANTA FE (AP)- A court ruling says New Mexico criminal defendants may be allowed to argue that they were trying to defend another person from excessive force by an officer.

The state Court of Appeals decision issued Tuesday in a case from Curry County overturns Sarita Jones’ convictions for battery upon a peace officer and resisting or abusing a peace officer and grants her a new trial.

The decision said the Clovis woman was entitled to seek a “defense of another” jury instruction because her case involved alleged excessive force directed by police at her son.

The Court of Appeals said a trial judge erroneously ruled that defendants claiming to have been defending another person couldn’t cite allegedly excessive force by police.

People acting to defend somebody else actually have the same limited right enjoyed by a person acting in self-defense, the Court of Appeals said.

The case stemmed from a 2017 incident in which officers went to Jones’ home in response to a domestic dispute.

According to the Court of Appeals ruling, Jones stepped in between two officers and one of her sons and grabbed one officer’s wrist as the officers drew their stun guns and pointed them at the son, who was wanted on a pending warrant and who had been yelling.

The New Mexico Supreme Court has ruled that the right to self-defense isn’t absolute because it doesn’t apply when an officer is using the force necessary to make an arrest.

In Jones’ case, the Court of Appeals said, “reasonable minds could differ as to whether the officers used excessive force …”