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Name: Patterson v. Gomez
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 08/16/2000
Subsequent History: None

In this first-degree murder prosecution, the trial court used a non-standard jury instruction. After giving CALJIC 3.30, which instructed the jury that it could consider evidence of mental disease or disorder to determine whether appellant actually formed the mental state required, the court gave CALJIC 2.90, the reasonable doubt instruction, followed by the non-standard instruction, in which the court told the jury: “At the time of the alleged offense charged in the information, you were [sic] instructed to presume that the defendant was sane.” The Court of Appeals held that giving this instruction was constitutional error violating the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because a reasonable juror could have understood the instruction to create a mandatory presumption that shifted to the defendant the burden of persuasion on the crucial element of mental state. The charge read as a whole did not explain or cure the error. Because the Court of Appeals had “grave doubt” about the harmlessness of the instruction, and believed it had a substantial and injurious effect in determining the jury’s verdict, reversal was required. Because the California appellate court decision was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of federal law within the meaning of the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals could, in the exercise of its habeas jurisdiction, reverse the judgment.