Courvoisier v. Raymond – Case Brief
Courvoisier v. Raymond, 23 Colo. 113, 47 P. 284 (Colo.1896).
Facts: Courvoisier (D) owned a jewelry store and lived on the second level. Intruders tried to enter his store one evening and D chased them outside with his revolver and fired a warning shot into the air. The intruders did not flee and began to throw sticks and rocks at him. Raymond (P), a police officer, approached D and told him not to shoot because he was a police officer. D, believing that P was one of the rioters and that P was approaching him in a threatening way, deliberately shot P in self defense.
Raymond sued Courvoisier for damages resulting from the shooting, asserting that D shot him recklessly knowing that he was a police officer. D asserted that the surrounding circumstances were enough for him to believe that his life was in danger and that he shot P in self defense.
The trial court entered a verdict in favor of P and D appealed based on a jury instruction that stated that if the jury believed that at the time the D shot P, P was not assaulting D, then the verdict should be for P. D believed this instruction eliminated the possibility for the jurors to consider that D believed that he was shooting one of the rioters.
Issue: During a riot, is one justified in shooting another as an act of self-defense if he believes the other person is a wrongdoer?
Holding and Rule: Yes. During a riot, if one believes his life is in danger he is justified in using self-defense, even against an innocent victim, if he reasonably believes that the victim posed an immediate danger to him. D would have been justified in shooting one of the rioters in self-defense. D mistook P for one of the rioters, but the mistake was excusable in light of the circumstances.
If P was not assaulting D, there needed to be sufficient evidence of justification. The court ruled that in this case there was sufficient evidence because a riot had ensued and P should have identified himself more clearly as a police officer.