Doctor charged with involuntary manslaughter for patient’s death not entitled to instruction that his medical assistant was an accomplice. Mohamed gave a patient too many opioids to keep her sedated during a liposuction procedure and she died. His assistant, who administered the fatal dose at his direction, testified during his trial, as did experts who opined that his methods constituted “extreme negligence.” A jury convicted Mohamed of involuntary manslaughter (Pen. Code, § 192, subd. (b)) and elder abuse. On appeal, Mohamed argued that his assistant was an accomplice, and that without her uncorroborated testimony there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction for involuntary manslaughter. He posited that the trial court had a sua sponte duty to instruct on principles of accomplice corroboration and that its failure to do so violated the Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. Held: Affirmed. A conviction cannot be based on an accomplice’s testimony unless it is corroborated by other evidence. (Pen. Code, § 1111.) To be an accomplice, an individual must have knowledge of the defendant’s criminal purpose. (People v. Valdez (2012) 55 Cal.4th 82, 147.) Mohamed’s assistant did not. She was not a qualified nurse and therefore lacked medical knowledge, training, and background that would enable her to appreciate the risks presented by Mohamed’s medical decisions. But even if she did have knowledge and were an accomplice, there was sufficient corroborating evidence admitted to satisfy the requirement in section 1111 rendering any failure to instruct on principles of accomplice corroboration harmless. Mohamed himself testified that he told his assistant how many opioids to give the patient and he admitted that he neglected to have at hand patient monitoring or other emergency equipment.
Great bodily injury allegation pursuant to Penal Code section 1192.7, subdivision (c)(8) is not an enhancement, it is a finding that means defendant’s conviction for involuntary manslaughter will qualify as a prior serious felony in future proceedings. The jury found true a great bodily injury allegation pursuant to section 1192.7, subdivision (c)(8). On appeal, Mohamed argued that the finding must be stricken because great bodily injury enhancements cannot apply to a conviction for murder or manslaughter. The Court of Appeal disagreed. Although a great bodily injury enhancement under Penal Code section 12022.7 cannot apply to a conviction for murder or manslaughter (People v. Cook (2015) 60 Cal.4th 922), an allegation under section 1192.7, subdivision (c)(8) is not an enhancement. It is a finding that means, in any future proceeding, Mohamed’s conviction will qualify as a prior serious felony.
The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/B262627.PDF