The Commonwealth of Virginia (plaintiff) prosecuted Rebecca Scarlett Cary (defendant) for murdering her boyfriend Mark Beekman. Beekman had a long history of threatening, abusing, and beating Cary. The trial evidence showed that Beekman was drunk and under the influence of cocaine when he visited Cary's apartment on the fatal occasion, and that Cary knew Beekman to be especially violent when intoxicated. Beekman cursed Cary, demanded that she leave the apartment, and then grabbed Cary by the hair and hit her. Beekman broke off the attack to use the bathroom. Cary seized this opportunity to retrieve a pistol, with which she shot and killed Beekman when he returned from the bathroom. The trial judge refused Cary's request that the jury be instructed on her claim of self-defense. The jury convicted Cary of murder. On appeal, Cary informed the appellate court that after Beekman returned from the bathroom, he aggressively advanced on Cary, repeated his demand that she leave the apartment, and cursed and threatened her with further violence. It was at that point that Cary fired the fatal shots. The appellate court reversed Cary's conviction, and the Commonwealth appealed to the Supreme Court of Virginia.