Brown v. Eplett, No. 21-1515 (7th Cir. 2022)Annotate this Case
At a barbecue at Brown's home. K.M. and Brown became inebriated and had a physical altercation. K.M.’s wife, Rebecca, got K.M. to his car, in front of Brown’s house. According to Rebecca, K.M. was standing in the street when Brown approached and swung a knife at K.M.. K.M. swung back with a piece of wood that Brown had thrown at K.M. earlier. Brown claims K.M. came up the driveway toward him holding pieces of wood and raised his hands as if to strike Brown, so Brown picked up a knife from the grill and swung it. He did not realize he had stabbed K.M. until K.M. collapsed in the street. Brown did not call 911 but made statements such as “that will teach him.” In recorded telephone calls from the jail, Brown made statements attributing the stabbing to anger rather than fear. K.M.’was struck three times; the knife’s blade penetrated his skull and passed through the brain. K.M. survived but has cognitive and physical impairments and will require care for the remainder of his life.
Brown was convicted of first-degree reckless injury. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of Brown’s habeas petition. Even if he was deprived of due process when the trial court refused to instruct the jury on the “castle doctrine” as part of his self-defense theory, any error was harmless. It is unlikely that a properly instructed jury would have accepted Brown’s factual account.