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Name: People v. Assad
Case #: C059777
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 10/15/2010

A trial court need not give a pinpoint jury instruction that duplicates existing instructions or improperly comments on the evidence. Appellant severely beat his 12-year-old son on more than one occasion as a form of discipline. He did so by using various implements, including a garden hose with a metal attachment. He also used corporal punishment on his daughters. At trial, a physician testified that the boy’s injuries were prominent, extreme, and violent, and that the boy would be permanently disfigured. The defense presented the testimony of some of appellant’s relatives to establish that in Syria, and under the precepts of appellant’s religion, it was permissible to use corporal punishment on children. Appellant was found guilty of torture, aggravated mayhem, inflicting corporal punishment with great bodily injury on the boy, and inflicting corporal punishment on one of the daughters. The appellate court rejected appellant’s argument that a pinpoint instruction should have been given as to the “cultural variance” evidence and its impact on whether the prosecution had proven guilt beyond reasonable doubt. Such an instruction was duplicative of instructions given and impermissibly commented on the evidence. The court also held the specific intent necessary for aggravated mayhem may be established by the implement used to administer the injury, the repeated administration of the injuries, as well as repeated injuries to the same location.
Application of Penal Code section 654 does not depend on allegations in the charging document but on what is proven at trial. The court also found no error under Penal Code section 654 for the separate punishments imposed for the crimes. Even if the charging documents alleged offenses governed by section 654, the evidence presented at trial sufficiently established that the offenses occurred on separate dates and were not a discrete course of conduct. It is the evidence presented at trial that governs the applicability of the statute.