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Name: People v. Bordelon
Case #: A114023
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 05/14/2008

A jury instruction that alone may be misleading may be adequate when clarified by another instruction and by argument of counsel. Appellant’s defense to the charge of robbery was that he had become so institutionalized as a result of his prior prison commitments that upon parole he was unable to adjust to life outside of prison and committed the bank robbery, not for money, but as a means of returning to the safer prison environment. Defense counsel asked that CALCRIM No. 370 which instructs the jury as to motive either not be given or be modified but the request was denied. CALCRIM No. 370 instructs that having a motive may be a factor tending to show defendant is guilty and not having a motive may be a factor showing defendant is not guilty. Counsel argued that the standard instruction would mislead the jury by equating motive with guilt whereas here, appellant’s motive was not to permanently deprive the bank but to enable him to return to prison. The appellate court determined that the specific intent instruction and the argument of defense counsel sufficiently negated any implication that the existence of a motive cannot support a defense. The court also concluded that the trial court abused its discretion by not permitting the defense expert on institutionalization to testify in reliance on appellant’s statement to the parole office psychologist that he had difficulty coping outside of prison and by not permitting defense counsel to pose a hypothetical question to the expert, but that the errors were harmless.