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Name: People v. Brothers
Case #: B255043
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 7
Opinion Date: 04/21/2015

Trial court did not err by failing to instruct sua sponte on involuntary manslaughter where there was no material issue as to whether the defendant acted without malice. Brothers flew into a rage and attacked the victim after discovering that he had molested children living in her home. Her two codefendants joined in the attack, torturing the victim. Brothers left the room during the assault without knowing whether the victim was dead. The victim died as a result of the attack. The prosecutor argued that Brothers was guilty of first degree murder under a number of theories. Brother’s attorney argued that the killing occurred in the heat of passion and urged the jury to find her guilty of voluntary manslaughter. Instructions on murder and voluntary manslaughter were given. The defense did not request, and the court did not give, an instruction on involuntary manslaughter. Brothers was convicted of voluntary manslaughter. On appeal, Brothers claimed the trial court had a sua sponte duty to instruct the jury on involuntary manslaughter. Held: Affirmed. “[A]n instruction on involuntary manslaughter as a lesser included offense must be given when a rational jury could entertain a reasonable doubt that an unlawful killing was accomplished with implied malice during the course of an inherently dangerous assaultive felony.” Here, an involuntary manslaughter instruction was not required because the evidence at trial did not raise a material issue as to whether Brothers acted without malice. Brothers deliberately engaged in a type of assault the natural consequences of which are dangerous to human life and there was no material issue presented as to whether Brothers subjectively appreciated the danger to human life her conduct posed. Additionally, the court concluded that Brothers’ attack with a dangerous weapon on the victim and her disregard as to his condition when she left the room constituted sufficient evidence of malice.