from the Superior Court in Pima County The Honorable Teresa
A. Godoy, Judge Pro Tempore No. CR20134987-001.
of the Court of Appeals, Division Two 242 Ariz. 6 (App. 2017)
Brnovich, Arizona Attorney General, Dominic E. Draye,
Solicitor General, Joseph T. Maziarz, Chief Counsel, Adele G.
Ponce (argued), Assistant Attorney General, Phoenix,
Attorneys for State of Arizona.
Feinman, Pima County Public Defender, Erin K. Sutherland
(argued), Assistant Public Defender, Tucson, Attorneys for
Antajuan Stewart Carson, Jr.
JUSTICE TIMMER authored the opinion of the Court, in which
CHIEF JUSTICE BALES, VICE CHIEF JUSTICE PELANDER and JUSTICES
BRUTINEL, BOLICK, GOULD, and LOPEZ joined.
Our courts have consistently prohibited a defendant from
simultaneously claiming self-defense and asserting a
misidentification defense. We now disavow that approach. We
hold that if some evidence supports a finding of
self-defense, the prosecution must prove its absence, and the
trial court must give a requested self-defense jury
instruction, even when the defendant asserts a
We view the evidence in the light most favorable to a
defendant's request for a self-defense instruction.
See State v. King, 225 Ariz. 87, 90 ¶ 13
One October night in 2013, Antajuan Carson and victims S.B.,
J.M., and B.C. attended a house party in Tucson. There was
"bad blood" between Carson and J.M., and they
unfortunately crossed paths. The two men engaged in a
prolonged "fight" inside the house that involved
"a whole bunch of people, " including S.B., who
"had a little conflict going [with Carson], " and
lasted five or ten minutes before being broken up. Carson
displayed a gun at some point during this confrontation.
The fight soon resumed outside in what witnesses described as
chaotic conditions ("A whole bunch of people were
running and arguing, yelling"; "[E]very body just
ran outside, and everybody was pushing") until several
people, including J.M. and S.B., "jumped" Carson,
hitting and kicking him as he was on the ground. According to
one witness, Carson pulled out a gun and "started like
swinging it to [J.M. and S.B.], " who responded by
physically fighting Carson. Someone yelled, "He has a
gun, " and people began to run away. Shots were fired,
and J.M. and S.B. were shot and killed. B.C. was shot but
survived. The gun was never found. But police discovered a
bloodied knife on the ground near S.B.'s body at the end
of a trail of blood drops, and a second bloodied knife was
found tucked inside S.B.'s belt. Neither was tested for
fingerprints or DNA. Carson fled and was later arrested in
The State charged Carson with two counts of second degree
murder and two counts of aggravated assault. During the
subsequent jury trial, Carson did not testify. His principal
defense was that he was not the shooter. But Carson also
requested a self-defense instruction. The trial court denied
the request, reasoning "the court legally cannot give a
self-defense instruction" because Carson denied he had
shot the victims. The jury found Carson guilty on all counts,
and the court imposed sentences.
The court of appeals reversed the murder convictions and
sentences and remanded for a new trial because the trial
court had erroneously refused to give a self-defense
instruction as to those two victims. State v.
Carson, 242 Ariz. 6, 12 ¶ 23 (App. 2017). It
affirmed the aggravated assault convictions, however,
concluding that insufficient evidence supported giving a
self-defense instruction regarding Carson's shooting of
B.C. Id. ¶ 21.
We granted review of Carson's petition and the
State's cross- petition to decide whether a defendant is
entitled to a self-defense instruction while also asserting a
misidentification defense, a recurring issue of statewide
importance. We have jurisdiction pursuant to ...