Skip to content
Name: People v. Beltran
Case #: S192644
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 06/03/2013
Summary

Provocation which is adequate to reduce murder to manslaughter focuses on whether a person of average disposition would be induced to react from passion, not whether such person would be induced to kill. Beltran was convicted of second degree murder in the stabbing death of his girlfriend. The Court of Appeal reversed his conviction, finding the voluntary manslaughter instruction (former CALCRIM No. 570) prejudicially erroneous. The prosecution sought review. Held: Reversed. On appeal, Beltran claimed the voluntary manslaughter instruction erroneously told the jurors to consider how “a person would react” to the provocation, focusing on whether it would induce a person of average disposition to kill, rather than to act rashly. The prosecution claimed the instruction did not go far enough and that the type of provocation sufficient to reduce murder to manslaughter must be of a kind that would cause a person of average disposition to kill. The court found the proper focus is not on whether the provocation would cause “the average person to act in a certain way: to kill. Instead, the question is whether the average person would react in a certain way: with his reason and judgment obscured.” The voluntary manslaughter instruction given was not ambiguous, but the closing arguments of counsel may have introduced ambiguity by debating whether or not it meant the provocation would cause a person of average disposition to kill, rather than to act rashly. However, the court dispelled any ambiguity by giving a clarifying instruction in response to a jury question.