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Name: People v. Bryant
Case #: D057570
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 12/18/2013
Summary

Trial court had no sua sponte duty to instruct on involuntary manslaughter where defendant committed a killing without malice during an assaultive felony. Bryant killed her boyfriend with a knife. She was found not guilty of first degree murder, but guilty of second degree murder, with a personal use allegation. In her original appeal, Bryant claimed that the trial court erred in failing to instruct the jury sua sponte on involuntary manslaughter as a lesser included offense of murder, on a theory that she killed while committing the misdemeanor offense of brandishing. The court reversed the conviction, however, concluding that the trial court erred in failing to instruct on voluntary manslaughter, based on the theory articulated in People v. Garcia (2008) 162 Cal. App 4th 18, that an unintentional killing during the commission of an inherently dangerous felony is voluntary manslaughter. The California Supreme Court granted respondent’s petition for review and reversed the appellate court’s judgment, disapproving Garcia. The Supreme Court expressly declined to address appellant’s contention that because assault with a deadly weapon is not an inherently dangerous felony, the trial court erred in failing to instruct on the theory of involuntary manslaughter. It remanded the case to the appellate court for further proceedings. On remand, Bryant once again claimed that the trial court erred in failing to instruct the jury sua sponte that an unlawful killing committed during the course of an assaultive felony constitutes the crime of involuntary manslaughter. The appellate court here rejected the argument, finding that the trial court did not have a sua sponte duty to instruct on Bryant’s “novel theory of involuntary manslaughter.” There is no authority holding that an unlawful killing during the course of an assault felony constitutes the crime of involuntary manslaughter. The trial court therefore had no sua sponte duty to instruct on a doctrine of law that has not been established by authority.