Self Defense – § 13A-3-23(d) – Pre-Trial Evidentiary Hearing

Ex parte Dalton Teal, [Ms. SC-2023-0043, Nov. 17, 2023] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2023). The Court (Bryan, J.; Parker, C.J., and Wise, Sellers, Mitchell, and Cook, JJ., concur; Mendheim, J., dissents, which Shaw and Stewart, JJ., join) issues a writ of mandamus to the Jefferson Circuit Court directing the court to conduct a pre-trial evidentiary hearing pursuant to § 13A-3-23(d), Ala. Code 1975, to determine if Teal is immune from suit on the ground of self-defense.

Teal shot Paul Thomas with a pistol during an altercation outside a bar in Birmingham and Thomas subsequently sued Teal alleging assault and battery, negligence, and wantonness. Ms. *2. In Ex parte Teal, 336 So. 3d 165 (Ala. 2021), the Court had previously determined that there were genuine issues of material fact concerning self-defense and vacated the circuit court’s summary judgment striking the defense. The Court explains “[o]ur holding in Ex parte Teal that the partial summary judgment was inappropriate due to the existence of genuine issues of material fact simply meant that the relevant issues should be decided by the appropriate trier of fact, not that the issues must necessarily be decided by a jury.” Ms. *8.

The Court holds “Teal is plainly entitled to a pretrial evidentiary hearing to determine whether he is immune from suit on the ground of self-defense” because Section “13A-3- 23(d)(2) provides, in relevant part: ‘Prior to the commencement of a trial in a case in which a defense is claimed under this section, the court having jurisdiction over the case, upon motion of the defendant, shall conduct a pretrial hearing to determine whether force, including deadly force, used by the defendant was justified or whether it was unlawful under this section.’” Ms. *9.

Justice Mendheim’s dissent, joined by Justices Shaw and Stewart, would deny the petition because it “was filed 33 days after the presumptively reasonable time for filing a mandamus petition, and Teal has not provided this Court with a useful ‘statement of circumstances constituting good cause” for its being “filed beyond the presumptively reasonable time.’” Ms. *14.

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