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Name: People v. Henderson
Case #: D040622
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 07/17/2003
Subsequent History: None

The trial court did not err when it failed to instruct the jury in appellant’s capital murder trial concerning the principles of flight as it related to a third party, whom the defense contended could have committed two of the murders. Although the trial court declined to give the instruction, the court did advise counsel that if she could find case law to support such an instruction, the court would give it. Counsel neither drafted the instruction nor discussed it again, though she argued the fact of the third party’s departure from the state as relevant on the issue of reasonable doubt as to the identity of the killer. There is a sua sponte duty to instruct on the effects of flight as it relates to a defendant. A defendant relying on a third party culpability defense is entitled to have the trial court give an appropriate pinpoint instruction on the issue of the alleged flight of the third party. However, there is no authority to justify holding that trial courts have a sua sponte duty to so instruct without request. Since the trial court had no duty to craft such an instruction for the defense, there was no error by the trial court. Further, any error would have been harmless since the evidence of the third party culpability was weak.