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Name: People v. Chiu
Case #: S202724
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 06/02/2014
Summary

A defendant cannot be convicted of first degree premeditated murder under the natural and probable consequences doctrine. Appellant was found guilty of first degree premeditated murder either as a direct aider and abettor of the murder or as an aider and abettor of the target offenses. The jury was instructed it could find Chiu guilty of first degree murder if murder was the natural and probable consequence of the target offenses and if, in committing the murder, the killer deliberated and premeditated. The Court of Appeal reversed because the jury was not told that it was necessary to find first degree murder, rather than murder, was a natural and probable consequence of the target offenses. Review was granted. Held: Affirmed for different instructional error. A person who aids and abets an offense is guilty not only of the intended crime, but also of any other crime the perpetrator commits which is a natural and probable consequence of the intended offense. In the context of murder, the doctrine serves to deter persons from aiding and abetting offenses that would foreseeably result in an unlawful killing. However, first degree premeditated murder requires a mental state that is uniquely subjective and personal. Whether a direct perpetrator commits a nontarget offense of murder with or without premeditation has no effect on the resultant harm. Where a perpetrator commits first degree premeditated murder, the public policy concerns of deterrence and culpability would not be served by allowing a defendant to be convicted of that greater offense under the natural and probable consequences doctrine. Since there was no basis in the record to find the verdict was based on a correct legal theory, such as direct aiding and abetting, reversal was required.