Defendant Walker was indicted for several felonies including murder in the second degree (felony murder) (N.Y. Pen. Law § 125.25 ), two counts of kidnapping in the second degree (N.Y. Pen. Law § 135.20), robbery in the first degree (N.Y. Pen. Law § 160.15 ), criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree (N.Y. Pen. Law § 265.03 ), and two counts of criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree (N.Y. Pen. Law § 265.02, ). He was ultimately convicted of several crimes including felony murder. As part of his defense, he claimed justification. However, the trial judge disallowed the defense of justification. On appeal, Walker argues that he should have been allowed to argue justification.
Justification, also referred to as self-defense, is an oft used defense to criminal charges such as murder and assault. It an affirmative defense governed by N.Y. Pen. Law § 35.15. The law allows a person to use physical force against another if he possesses an honest and reasonable belief that he is facing unlawful physical force or an imminent threat of unlawful physical force. In the absence of an honest and reasonable belief of that he is facing unlawful force or a threat, the use of such physical force would be a crime.
While it is well-established that a person has the legal right to use physical force that would otherwise amount to murder or assault, the question in his case is whether a person has the right to use physical force that would otherwise amount to felony murder.