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Name: People v. Jennings
Case #: A084322
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 06/30/2000
Subsequent History: Review denied 10/18/00

The trial court had no sua sponte duty to give the jury a limiting instruction on the purposes for which they could consider the prior acts of domestic violence under section 1109, where neither the defense nor the prosecution requested such an instruction. Nowhere in People v. Fitch (1997) 55 Cal.App.4th 172, or People v. Falsetta (1999) 21 Cal.4th 903, did the court conclude that a limiting instruction is necessary to prevent the application of section 1109 from violating a defendant’s constitutional rights. Those opinions suggested that such an instruction should be given on request. Falsetta did not require that the trial court give the revised version of CALJIC 2.50.02 where no instruction was ever requested in the first place. Because the record does not show why counsel failed to request the instruction, and satisfactory reasons exist for not doing so, appellant could not establish that counsel rendered ineffective assistance, or that the omission was prejudicial. At his trial for acts of domestic violence against his cohabitant, appellant’s three prior incidents of domestic violence against the victim were admitted under Evidence Code section 1109. The appellate court here rejected appellant’s constitutional challenges to section 1109, citing People v. Falsetta (1999) 21 Cal.4th 903, which dealt with Evidence Code section 1108, and agreeing with three subsequent Court of Appeal cases which upheld the constitutionality of section 1109 directly. The court also rejected appellant’s argument that section 1109 violated his right to equal protection, citing People v. Fitch (1997) 55 Cal.App.4th 172, holding that the Fitch analysis applied with equal force to the admission of a defendant’s commission of prior acts of domestic violence. Appellant’s prior acts of domestic violence were admissible under Evidence Code section 352. The trial court properly weighed the potential for prejudice against the probative value of the evidence, and admission of the prior acts posed no danger of confusion to the jury.