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Jackson in his Baywatch days

Jackson in his Baywatch days

This week in celebrity arrests: former Baywatch actor Jeremy Jackson. Jackson was arrested Monday in Los Angeles for allegedly stabbing a man in the abdomen in the city’s Westlake neighborhood. Police are certain Jackson is the assailant because the victim told them, “Hobie stabbed me,” referring to Jackson by his Baywatch name. Plus, “Hobie” said he did it, claiming self-defense.

Things have not been all fun in the sun for the 34-year-old Jackson in recent years. According to Fox News, Jackson was arrested in 2005 for building a meth lab in his home. He made a return to the small screen in 2011, appearing on “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew.” He was then kicked off “Celebrity Big Brother UK” for exposing a female castmate’s breasts on TV. Well, maybe things have been fun.

The Self-Defense Claim

So what will it take to substantiate Hobie’s claim of self-defense and get him off from his charges of Assault with a Deadly Weapon? Evidence. Sounds simple, and it really kind of is, but he needs EV-I-DENCE. The burden of proving each and every element of a crime is on the prosecution. The defendant need not produce any evidence at all in order to be acquitted of criminal charges. When it comes to a claim of self-defense, however, it is a different story.

Self-defense, or the lack thereof, is not an element of the crime of Assault with a Deadly Weapon. Rather than an element of the crime, self-defense is an affirmative defense. An affirmative defense states the defendant did, in fact, commit the act for which he is accused, but claims circumstances existed to justify or excuse his actions, freeing him from criminal culpability. For example, if the evidence shows a defendant charged with murder shot the “victim” only because the victim was about to shoot the defendant first, the defendant will be found not guilty because his shooting of the “victim” was a justified act of self-defense.

Unlike elements of a crime, the burden of proof for an affirmative defense is on the defendant. The defendant must prove the existence of circumstances that created the defense by convincing the jury that more likely than not, such circumstances existed to justify his otherwise-criminal actions. In other words, the defendant must prove the affirmative defense by a preponderance of the evidence.

According to the New York Daily News, Jackson’s attorney relayed that Jackson said “someone pulled a gun on him and he defended himself with a knife.” Similarly to our example above, if this is true, this justifies Jackson’s stabbing the man as an act of self-defense. If this is proven to be true, Jackson should be acquitted of any assault charges in this incident.

The trick for Jackson and his attorney, however, will be proving this story true. The early news reports do not identify any witnesses to the incident other than the guy who got stabbed. The early reports have not indicated police found a gun on this man, and they certainly haven’t indicated the man claimed he attacked Jackson first. Thus, with all we know as of yet, Jackson and his attorneys have some work to do with regard to investigating and collecting evidence to support his claim of self-defense.

Defense Investigation is Vital to Prove Self-Defense

This is one place where the importance of a great case investigation shines through for the defense. Jackson’s attorneys should have investigators scouring the streets of Westlake for witnesses and security camera footage that may have seen or captured the incident. If favorable, this would be direct evidence proving Jackson did in fact act in self-defense. If negative, it is imperative Jackson’s attorneys see this footage or hear these witness statements as early on as possible to know how to deal with them and mitigate any damage they may do.

Investigators should also be interviewing all people who were with Jackson and people who were with the alleged victim at all points Friday night and early Saturday morning. These interviews may reveal that the alleged victim did carry a gun that night, or that he planned to assault or rob Jackson. This would be indirect evidence supporting Jackson’s claim of self-defense. On the other hand, these interviews may reveal Jackson was back on meth, acting violent, and planned on stabbing the victim. This would be another piece of negative evidence Jackson’s attorneys would want to have as early as possible to avoid being blindsided with it later.

Additionally, defense investigators should be interviewing other people who know Jackson and people who know the alleged victim. If these interviews reveal the alleged victim has a character or proclivity for violence, the defense can use this as evidence Jackson acted in self-defense. If, however, these interviews also reveal Jackson too has a character for violence, the defense must be prepared to deal with this negative evidence and decide whether or not to bring the alleged victim’s character into violence, or avoid the issue altogether.

There are additional decisions that will need to be made in the defense of Jeremy Jackson for this alleged stabbing. The simple fact, however, is that if Jackson is going to successfully claim self-defense, he must provide the evidence.

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About The Author

Los Angeles-based, celebrity criminal defense attorney, Lonnie McDowell, Esq of McDowell & Associates, Attorneys recognized with the Top 100 Trial Attorneys Award; shares his insight into the legal system in this series of commentaries.

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