State v. Kille

The defendant appealed his convictions for first-degree aggravated manslaughter and weapons offenses. He argued that the trial court made numerous errors in its jury instructions, though the defendant only timely objected to some of them. The Appellate Division dismissed multiple challenges without much discussion but wrote at length to analyze the defendant’s argument about the trial court’s instruction regarding licensure status for a handgun. The trial court omitted from its oral instructions the element requiring the state to prove non-licensure, though the passage was included in written instructions given to the jury. The Appellate Division found that the omission was plain error and vacated the defendant’s conviction for unlawful possession of a handgun. The Court also found an error in the instruction regarding possession of a firearm for an unlawful purpose. Justification was an issue, and the trial court did not instruct the jury regarding using a firearm for a protective purpose, which could have negated the mental state needed to secure a conviction. The Court vacated that sentence, leaving only the aggravated manslaughter charge.

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