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Name: People v. Johnwell
Case #: F041899
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 5 DCA
Opinion Date: 08/30/2004

At the conclusion of appellant’s 1368 trial regarding his competency to stand trial, the court instructed the jury with CALJIC 2.01, which told them if the circumstantial evidence permits two reasonable interpretations, one pointing to competency and the other pointing to incompetency, then they must adopt the one which points to competency and reject incompetency. On appeal, appellant argued that this violated his right to due process because it required him to introduce sufficient circumstantial evidence to disprove every rational conclusion and reasonable interpretation other than incompetence, thereby assigning him a higher burden of proof. The prosecutor conceded the error, but argued it was harmless. The appellate court disagreed, finding the appropriate standard the harmless-beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard of Chapman. Here, regardless of the fact that appellant may have received a fair trial on the guilt issue, the error mandates reversal. If a new 1368 hearing is required and appellant is found competent to stand trial, or if there are no doubts about competency requiring a 1368 hearing, then a new trial on guilt must be held. Appellant’s sentence was unauthorized because the court struck the special circumstance finding, despite Penal Code section 1385.1, which prohibits a court from striking or dismissing any special circumstance which is found by a jury. Accordingly, the prosecutor was free to pursue such an allegation upon remand.