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Name: People v. Cox
Case #: S070959
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 07/10/2000
Subsequent History: Rehearing denied 8/9/00
Summary

The involuntary manslaughter instruction given here was incorrect insofar as it informed the jury that misdemeanor battery is an inherently dangerous offense in the abstract. Because this instruction removed from the jury the question of the dangerousness of the predicate misdemeanor battery under the circumstances of its commission, it permitted conviction where the jury may have only found appellant committed the battery with general criminal intent. Because this error is subject to a harmless error analysis, and the Court of Appeal did not pass on the question of whether such an erroneous instruction prejudiced the verdict, the court remanded to the Court of Appeal to resolve the prejudice issue. The California Supreme Court held in People v. Wells (1996) 12 Cal.4th 979, that the underlying act upon which a charge of involuntary manslaughter is based must be shown to be dangerous under the circumstances of its commission. Here, that holding was applied to with equal force to an involuntary manslaughter prosecution based on the commission of a misdemeanor with general criminal intent.