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Name: People v. Lewis
Case #: E031035
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 05/19/2006
Summary

A second-degree felony murder conviction cannot be predicated upon a violation of Vehicle Code section 2800.2, evading an officer in willful disregard of the safety of persons or property. Defendants were in a stolen car being chased by police when they crashed into another car. Its occupants died as a result of the collision. Defendants were convicted, inter alia, of two counts of second-degree murder. The only theory of murder reflected by the jury instructions was felony-murder based upon the predicate offense of violating Vehicle Code section 2800.2. But, in People v. Howard (2005) 34 Cal.4th 1129, the Supreme Court held this offense is not, in the abstract, inherently dangerous to human life and thus cannot support a conviction for second-degree murder. In light of Howard, the court’s instructions were erroneous. Moreover, the Court of Appeal found the error was not harmless under Chapman. Since the jury was instructed on a single invalid theory of murder, there was no other possible basis upon which the jury could have rested its verdict.