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Name: People v. Hicks
Case #: B259665
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 5
Opinion Date: 12/23/2015
Subsequent History: Review granted 3/23/2016: S232218

Trial court did not err in refusing to instruct the second jury in a second degree murder trial that the first jury had convicted the defendant of the lesser related offense of gross vehicular manslaughter. At Hicks’ first trial for offenses related to a vehicular death, the jury deadlocked on the charge of second degree murder but convicted him of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. At his second trial for second degree murder, the trial court refused to advise the jury that Hicks had been convicted of gross vehicular manslaughter, a lesser related offense, in his first trial. The second jury convicted him of second degree murder and he appealed. Held: Affirmed. In People v. Batchelor (2014) 229 Cal.App.4th 1102, which involved similar circumstances, the Court of Appeal held that the trial court’s failure to advise the jury during the second trial that the jury during the first trial had convicted the defendant of gross vehicular manslaughter gave the second jury the “false impression” that the defendant would be “unpunished” if he was not convicted of murder. But in Batchelor, the prosecutor emphasized in closing that it was up to them to hold the defendant accountable, which undoubtedly created the misleading impression that unless the jury found him guilty of the murder charge, he would not be held accountable at all for the victim’s death. The Court of Appeal here distinguished Batchelor on the basis that the prosecutor in Hicks’ case did not make such an argument and had been specifically admonished by the trial court not to. The court also disagreed with Batchelor to the extent it holds a trial court must always advise a jury in a second trial that the defendant was convicted of a lesser related crime in the first trial, reasoning that there was no authority for such a proposition. Any error in refusing to instruct the jury regarding the prior conviction was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.