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Commonwealth v. Shaffer

326 N.E.2d 880 (1975)

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Commonwealth v. Shaffer

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

326 N.E.2d 880 (1975)

Facts

Roberta Shaffer (defendant) resided with her two children in a ranch house owned by the victim, to whom Shaffer was engaged. Shaffer and the victim had a tumultuous relationship. Shaffer had received several severe beatings at the hands of the victim, and on at least one occasion the victim had threatened to kill her and the children. On the morning of the homicide, an argument ensued between Shaffer and the victim, and Shaffer retreated downstairs to the basement, where the children were eating breakfast and watching television. From the top of the basement stairs, the victim threatened to kill Shaffer and the kids. Shaffer started to telephone the police but stopped when the victim said he would leave the house. Instead, the victim returned to the top of the basement stairs, at which time Shaffer grabbed a .22-caliber rifle from the rack on the wall and loaded it. Shaffer again started to telephone the police but fired one fatal shot after the victim started down the stairs. More than five minutes elapsed between the time Shaffer went to the basement and the shooting. Shaffer was convicted of manslaughter and appealed, arguing the trial judge erred by including in his self-defense instruction that Shaffer had a duty to retreat from her home.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Tauro, C.J.)

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