The Court of Appeals, in a full-fledged opinion by Judge Wilson, reversing the Appellate Division, determined defendant (Mr. Brown) was not entitled to the jury instruction on the justification defense. The Court of Appeals found that the defendant was the initial “deadly force” aggressor because he was wielding the gun before the unarmed victim (Mr. Cabbagestalk) “swiped” at the gun:
Mr. Wolf [an eyewitness who testified at trial] said he heard the older man [defendant] say, “Stay away from my daughter, don’t come around here.” Mr. Cabbagestalk responded, “you can’t tell me where to be.” According to Mr. Wolf, Mr. Cabbagestalk was “getting in the older guy’s face a little bit,” “trying to back him down,” and Mr. Marshall [who was with Mr. Cabbagestalk] was trying to calm Mr. Cabbagestalk down.
Mr. Wolf testified … he observed Mr. Cabbagestalk throwing a few punches at Mr. Brown but that he believed those punches did not reach Mr. Brown. Mr. Wolf also testified that Mr. Brown was holding a gun slightly “above waist high” and “pointed away from him.” Mr. Cabbagestalk then “swiped” at Mr. Brown’s gun … … [A]t some point before Mr. Cabbagestalk’s last swing or swipe, Mr. Cabbagestalk said, “if you going to pull a gun out, you got to use it.” Mr. Brown did just that, shooting Mr. Cabbagestalk in the chest. * * *
Because Mr. Brown’s drawing of his gun under these circumstances constituted the imminent threat of deadly physical force, the “initial aggressor” rule bars Mr. Brown from claiming justification unless a reasonable jury could conclude either: (1) that Mr. Brown withdrew from the encounter after drawing his gun, communicated that withdrawal to Mr. Cabbagestalk, and Mr. Cabbagestalk thereafter used or threatened imminent use of deadly physical force (Penal Law § 35.15[b]), or (2) that Mr. Cabbagestalk himself was the initial “deadly force” aggressor. No reasonable jury could reach either conclusion based on the evidence in this case, even viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Mr. Brown (as we must). People v Brown, 2019 NY Slip Op 03529, CtApp 5-7-19