Accident as a Defense
In a criminal prosecution, where evidence of Accident has been introduced, the prosecutor must rebut that evidence and prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that what occurred was not an accident. If the prosecutor cannot prove that the defendant's conduct was not an accident, then the jury must find him not guilty.
Massachusetts law defines an "accident" as an unexpected happening that occurs without intention or design on the defendant's part. It means a sudden, unexpected event that takes place without the defendant's intending it.
In cases where there is a claim of accidental injury to another, such as in an Assault & Battery or Murder, a defendant is permitted to introduce evidence establishing the reasonableness of his apprehension that death or serious bodily injury was imminent or that he had availed himself or all available means to avoid a physical confrontation or the reasonableness of the amount of force necessary to deal with the perceived threat against him. Specifically, the defendant would be entitled to:
- Introduce evidence that he/she had been the victim of acts of physical, sexual or psychological harm or abuse; or
- Introduce expert testimony regarding the common pattern in abusive relationships and related effects of such.
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