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Name: People v. Guerra
Case #: H032881
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 6 DCA
Opinion Date: 07/31/2009
Summary

The court invaded the jury’s province by asking it to reconsider its finding on an enhancement allegation, and find it to be true if it found a predicate fact was true. The jury found appellant guilty of various sex crimes against two victims, but found the one-strike enhancement for multiple victims not true. The court told the jury it’s finding on the allegation was inconsistent with the verdicts and that it “should” find the enhancement true if the predicate fact that there were two victims was true. So, the jury did. The Court of Appeal reversed the verdict for the enhancement because the trial court invaded the jury’s province in violation of Penal Code section 1161. The statute prohibits the court to require the jury to reconsider its decision when there has been a verdict of acquittal (or a not true verdict on an enhancement) in open court, and it also recognizes inconsistent verdicts are allowed to stand. Here, the parties thought of two possibilities resulting from the verdicts: either the jurors misunderstood the instruction on the enhancement, or they meant to acquit the defendant of the charge against the second victim. What the court should have done was poll the jury. If each juror answered that the verdicts and findings reflected his or her individual verdict, then the court was required to accept the inconsistent verdict. The true finding on the one-strike enhancement was reversed.