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Name: People v. Petznick
Case #: H023768
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 6 DCA
Opinion Date: 12/18/2003
Subsequent History: Rehrg. den. 1/14/04; Revw. den. 3/24/04

The trial court prejudicially erred in instructing the jury on conspiracy to murder and on the torture-murder special circumstance. The defendant was convicted of conspiracy, murder, burglary, and robbery in concert, and the jury found true three special circumstances, including torture. The court of appeal rejected defendant’s argument that the trial court had erred in refusing his proffered duress instructions, finding that the evidence was insufficient to establish that defendant’s participation in the crimes was the result of a present and active threat of imminent danger. The court likewise rejected his argument that the CALJIC 2.51, concerning motive, effectively lowered the prosecution’s standard of proof. The court agreed, however, that the trial court had prejudicially erred in answering a jury’s question regarding whether all participants in the conspiracy to commit murder were required to have harbored express malice aforethought, because the court’s revised instruction could have permitted the jury to find defendant guilty of conspiracy to commit murder even if he was not one of the conspirators who harbored a specific intent to kill. Finally, the trial court prejudicially erred in instructing the jury that the torture special circumstance could be proven if any defendant intended to inflict pain and suffering, rather than this specific defendant.