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In re Christian S.

Supreme Court of California
872 P.2d 574 (1994)


Christian S. (defendant) was a minor who was physically and verbally harassed by Robert Elliott and Elliott’s friends for a year. Christian began carrying a handgun out of fear of Elliott. One day Elliott chased Christian down the beach, threatening him and challenging Elliott to fire the gun. Elliott advanced on Christian repeatedly, stopping only when Christian would raise the gun at him. Eventually when Elliott was approximately 20 feet away, Christian shot and killed him. Christian was charged in juvenile court with second-degree murder. Christian raised the defense of imperfect self-defense, but the court rejected the defense and concluded that Christian had committed a killing that would amount to second-degree murder if committed by an adult. The court made Christian a ward of the juvenile court. Christian appealed and the court of appeals reversed the judgement, holding that Christian had acted out of an honest belief that Elliott was about to cause him serious harm. The court of appeals further held that the state legislature’s recent amendments to the penal code to eliminate the diminished capacity defense did not eliminate the defense of imperfect self-defense. The state appealed the court of appeal’s ruling.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Baxter, J.)

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