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Name: People v. Brock
Case #: A108062
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 5
Opinion Date: 10/11/2006

The victim, who was 65, met appellant Brock when Brock was working for the victim’s attorney. After Brock was fired, he continued to spend time with the victim, and often asked him for money. The victim wrote him checks. The victim’s niece eventually filed an elder abuse complaint against Brock, and he was convicted of theft against an elder (Pen. Code, sec. 368, subd. (d)) and grand theft. On appeal, Brock challenged a jury instruction that said that the victim’s consent to the transactions was ineffective if it was obtained by the exercise of undue influence, and defined undue influence as including “where a defendant takes an unfair advantage of another’s weakness of mind.” The appellate court agreed that the instructions were flawed, and reversed both convictions. The court’s instructions were too inclusive to act as a standard for negating consent. Under the instructions, undue influence is little more than over-persuasion, and created a risk of conviction whenever an accused benefitted so greatly from a transaction that the jury is convinced the victim acted unreasonably in entering into it. The jury could have concluded that consent did not exist because the victim was weak-minded and that appellant lacked good faith because he knew the victim was vulnerable. Since nothing in the record demonstrates that the jury rejected this theory, the instructional error was prejudicial.