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Name: People v. Morehead
Case #: D055889
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 01/07/2011

The trial court has no sua sponte duty to instruct the jury that a robbery victim’s fear must be actual and reasonable. In addition to other offenses, appellant was convicted of three counts of second degree robbery and one count of attempted second degree robbery. The offenses stemmed from bank robberies and an attempted bank robbery in which appellant approached the tellers and handed them a note demanding money. Appellant was wearing dark glasses and a beanie at the time of the crimes. On appeal, appellant contended that the court was required to sua sponte instruct the jury that the victims’ fear must be actual and reasonable. The court disagreed. CALCRIM No. 1600, as given by the trial court, instructed the jury that the defendant used force and fear to take the property of another, with “fear” meaning fear of injury to the person or another. Although a trial court has a sua sponte duty to give explanatory instructions when terms in an instruction have a technical meaning peculiar to the law, “fear” as used in the crime of robbery has no such technical meaning and is presumed to be within the understanding of the juror. If appellant believed that further clarification was required, he was required to request a clarilying instruction himself. And even if such a sua sponte instruction is required, here, the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt as all the victims testified as to their fear, and such fear was reasonable under the circumstances. Finally, appellant’s claim that there was insufficient evidence of robbery since he never threatened anyone or exhibited a weapon, was unavailing. Substantial evidence was presented that the victims complied with his demands out of fear within the meaning of the robbery statute, which defines robbery as the felonious taking of property from another by force or fear.