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Name: Lara v. Ryan
Case #: 05-16055
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 08/01/2006

Federal habeas relief was not appropriate where it was absolutely certain that the jury that convicted petitioner of attempted murder found express malice. In the petitioner’s state trial, the evidence showed that he aimed a gun at the victim’s temple during an argument and shot him, and then aimed the gun between another victim’s eyes and shot him as well. The trial judge misinstructed the jury on attempted murder under California law, telling the jurors that “malice aforethought” could be based on implied malice. The error was structural because the error permitted the jury to return a verdict on differing theories of guilt, one of which was constitutionally invalid. However, because the jury made a specific finding that the attempted murder was willful, deliberate, and premeditated, it was absolutely certain that the jury found express malice.