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Name: People v. Lopez
Case #: F059255
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 5 DCA
Opinion Date: 10/14/2011

In the context of self-defense, CALCRIM Nos. 505, 571, and 604 correctly state the law of imminent danger and future harm. Appellants, convicted of murder and attempted murder, argue on appeal that the self-defense instructions (CALCRIM 505, 571, and 604) misstate the concept of imminent peril, especially when considered in conjunction with a special instruction of the prosecution addressing imminent danger. The evidence showed that the victims were inside the one victim’s truck. The prosecution theory was that Lopez started an argument with the passenger and then yelled to Flemming, the second defendant, to pull out a gun Lopez had previously given him. Flemming did so and fired two shots, killing the driver. A witness testified that prior to the shooting, the passenger swung at someone outside the vehicle with an object that appeared red. The court gave the CALCRIM voluntary manslaughter instructions on the theory of imperfect self-defense. Appellants argued that the instructions misstated imminent peril and that CALJIC Nos. 5.12 and 5.17 correctly state the law. According to appellants, imminent peril necessarily lies in the immediate future and the CALCRIM instructions erroneously eliminate the future aspect by explaining that belief in future harm is not sufficient to trigger imperfect self-defense. The appellate court disagreed, finding that the instructions correctly state the law in terms of common, every day language, and that jurors would understand the difference between imminent danger and future harm.