Illegal To Use Nonlethal Self-Defense If You Can Safely Retreat?

As I blogged last year, in a very few states, it's illegal to use even nondeadly self-defense if you could safely retreat from the fight (and even if you weren't at all culpable in starting the fight).

There's a hot debate about whether you should be able to use deadly self-defense when you could safely retreat, with most U.S. states saying "yes" but a substantial minority saying "no." I had thought, though, that the uniform rule was that you could stand your ground and use nondeadly self-defense, regardless of whether you could have avoided the problem by running away. But a very few states take the opposite view.

In any case, this arose in the case of Michael Mette, an off-duty Chicago police officer, who was sentenced to 5 years in prison in such a situation; this is what prompted my original post, which has more details. Today, the Iowa Court of Appeals reversed Mette's conviction. The court applied the Iowa rule that you can't use even nonlethal self-defense if you can retreat, but found that

[T]here is absolutely no testimony from any of the witnesses to support the district court's findings:

What the defendant failed to do however, was to retreat from the situation to avoid any problems. All any of the six had to do was get in the car, go inside the house, or walk away and call the police about the disturbance.

After being pushed and knocked backwards two or three times, there was nothing in the record to indicate Michael could have avoided Gothard's next blow, without his defensive punch. While it may be possible to speculate on Michael's ability to retreat, the record is utterly void of any testimony to support that assumption.

Since in Iowa, as in all states except Ohio, the prosecution must disprove self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt (in Ohio, the defendant must prove self-defense by a preponderance of the evidence), and the prosecution hadn't discharged its burden of proof, the conviction was reversed.

Thanks to Brad Flora (Windy Citizen) for the pointer.