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Name: People v. Jones
Case #: F066467
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 5 DCA
Opinion Date: 10/06/2014
Summary

Verdict finding defendant guilty of first degree murder “as charged in . . . the information” satisfied the requirement that the jury expressly find the degree of the crime even though the information charged generic murder without specifying the degree. Following a jury trial, Jones was convicted of first degree murder and second degree robbery. Count one of the information had charged that “the crime of murder, in violation of Penal Code section 187(a), a felony, was committed by [defendant], who did unlawfully, and with malice aforethought murder” the victim. The jury returned a verdict finding Jones “Guilty of [a] violation of section 187(a) of the Penal Code, a felony, first degree murder . . ., as charged in Count One of the Information.” On appeal, Jones argued that the language of the verdict form, read in conjunction with the information, demonstrated that the jury failed to determine the degree of the crime, as required by Penal Code section 1157. Held: Affirmed. Section 1157 provides that the jury must find the degree of a crime whenever the defendant is convicted of a crime that is distinguished into degrees. If the jury fails to do so, the crime shall be deemed to be of the lesser degree. Here, the jury’s verdict explicitly specified a finding of first degree murder, satisfying section 1157’s requirement. The verdict form’s reference to the information, which charged generic murder, did not create a fatal uncertainty or ambiguity. Based on the jury instructions and the fact that the jurors completed and signed only the verdict form for first degree murder, the jury’s intent to convict defendant of first degree murder was unmistakably clear. Jones was not entitled to have his conviction reduced to second degree murder.