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Name: People v. Bryant
Case #: S196365
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 06/03/2013
Summary

A killing committed without malice in the commission of an inherently dangerous assaultive felony does not constitute voluntary manslaughter. Bryant was convicted of second degree murder in the stabbing death of her boyfriend. The Court of Appeal reversed because the trial court failed to instruct the jury on voluntary manslaughter as a lesser included offense of murder based on a killing without malice in the commission of an inherently dangerous assaultive felony. Held: Reversed. A second degree felony murder may be based on commission of an inherently dangerous felony, but not an assaultive felony, because the offenses “merge.” (People v. Ireland (1969) 70 Cal.2d 522.) But that does not mean a killing committed without malice in the commission of an inherently dangerous assaultive felony is voluntary manslaughter, because voluntary manslaughter requires either an intent to kill or a conscious disregard for life. The presence of provocation or unreasonable self-defense, i.e., circumstances related to the defendant’s mental state, may preclude the jury from finding the defendant acted with malice aforethought. Here, the defendant killed without malice in the commission of an inherently dangerous assaultive felony; she therefore lacked an intent to kill or conscious disregard for life. Thus, no instruction was required on defendant’s theory.