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Brown v. United States

United States Supreme Court
256 U.S. 335 (1921)


Brown (defendant) was at work supervising earth removal in Texas when Hermes came toward him with a knife. Brown retreated about 25 feet to retrieve a pistol he had placed in his coat. As Hermes was striking at him, Brown fired four shots killing Hermes. There had been a long history of trouble between both men including routine threats of violence made from Hermes to Brown. Further, Hermes had previously assaulted Brown with a knife on two different occasions. Brown was charged with second-degree murder. At trial, the court instructed the jury that “it is necessary to remember, in considering the question of self-defense, that the party assaulted is always under the obligation to retreat, so long as retreat is open to him, provided he can do so without subjecting himself to danger of death or great bodily harm.” Additionally, the trial court told the jury that Brown was not allowed to stand his ground if a reasonable person, in Brown’s position, would have had the ability to retreat. Brown was convicted and he appealed. The court of appeals affirmed the conviction and the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari to review.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Holmes, J.)

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