Stabbing drunken neighbor ruled self-defense on appeal

POSTED: 07/12/13 1:03 PM

St. Maarten – The Common Court of Justice dismissed all prosecution against Diony Rafael Rivas Hernandez yesterday for attempted manslaughter on a drunken neighbor. The Court in First Instance sentenced the defendant in September of last year to 24 months imprisonment, with 6 months suspended.

The 51-year-old defendant was confronted on March 24 of last year with his belligerent and drunk neighbor Lopez who threw a beer glass at him and then started to hit and kick him. The defendant picked up a knife from a table and stabbed his attacker in his side.

“I said that I don’t want problems but that I will defend myself,” the defendant told the court.

When things got out of hand and ended with the stabbing, the defendant took it upon himself to go to the police and tell what had happened.

In September, the Court in First Instance found that the defendant’s reaction to his aggressive neighbor had been disproportionate and that there was no proof he had acted under severe emotional distress – a condition for accepting a form of self-defense.

The Appeals Court however expressed a different opinion in its ruling and concluded that the defendant is not punishable for the stabbing.

The defendant’s house and the rental home of Lopez are located near each other. On March 24, 2012 Lopez had been drinking, the court established. “He had argued with another tenant of the defendant’s spouse. At a certain moment Lopez kicked the defendant’s refrigerator on the property. The spouse and a neighbor of the defendant attempted to calm down Lopez and the defendant planned to leave to get away from a possible escalation of the row, but he did not get the opportunity because Lopez confronted him.”

The two men had had problems with each other in the past; when Lopez forced the defendant during the brawl backwards against a table he grabbed the first utensil he got his hands on, made a move towards Lopez and stabbed him in his belly. “Only then did the defendant realize that he had grabbed a knife from the table,” the court concluded. “Given these circumstances the defendant has acted out of the necessary defense of his body against the immediate and unlawful attack by Lopez.”

When the Court in First Instance sentenced the defendant to prison time in September of last year, he did not attend the sentencing hearing where the court ordered his imprisonment. This order could therefore not be executed. Rivas Hernandez did not attend yesterdays sentencing hearing either.

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