By: Teresa Mull

Sheila Monroe of Colorado stabbed a man in the neck in 2011 during an argument; the man survived, and Monroe said she acted in self-defense because she thought the man was reaching for a weapon in his pocket.

Now, the Denver Post reports:

The Colorado Supreme Court on Monday overturned a woman’s conviction and 96-year prison sentence for stabbing a man on a Denver RTD bus, finding that the prosecution wrongly argued the woman couldn’t have reasonably acted in self-defense because she didn’t retreat from the confrontation.

The 5-2 decision is rooted in the state’s stand-your-ground precedent and finds that prosecutors cannot argue that a person’s failure to retreat from an encounter undermines the reasonableness of a self-defense claim.

Complete Colorado reports the prosecution argued several times that “[Monroe’s] failure to retreat in spite of the ability to do so … indicated that she didn’t really think her life was in danger, thus negating her right to use deadly force in self defense by implying that any reasonable person would have first retreated.”

Justice Hood wrote in the court’s decision:

“To allow the prosecution to argue that a defendant’s failure to retreat undermines the reasonableness of that defendant’s self-defense claim would cripple the no-duty-to-retreat rule. The only inferences a jury could draw from that line of argument are that, if retreat was possible but not pursued, a defendant must not have acted reasonably by using force or must not have actually perceived a threat, since she would have fled if she had.

“In light of our decision today categorically prohibiting argument regarding a defendant’s failure to retreat, all five of the prosecution’s statements regarding Monroe’s failure to retreat were improper. Accordingly, the trial court abused its discretion by permitting their admission.”

Teresa Mull is editor of Gunpowder Magazine.