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Name: People v. Ramirez
Case #: B289035
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 8
Opinion Date: 09/24/2019

Trial court properly denied defendant’s request for pinpoint instructions related to voluntary manslaughter because one instruction was duplicative of CALCRIM No. 570 and another was argumentative. Ramirez shot Zambrano in the back during an altercation after the victim punched Ramirez’s friend in the face during the friend’s wedding reception. Ramirez was convicted by a jury of second degree murder. He appealed, challenging the trial court’s failure to give pinpoint instructions requested by the defense. Held: Affirmed. Defendants have a right to an instruction pinpointing their defense theory, but the court may refuse incorrect, argumentative, duplicative, or confusing instructions. Here, the trial court instructed the jury on voluntary manslaughter using CALCRIM No. 570. Ramirez requested a pinpoint instruction stating, “Provocation sufficient to reduce murder to voluntary manslaughter may accumulate over a period of time and may be based on a series of acts.” This instruction was duplicative of CALCRIM No. 570, which states, “Sufficient provocation may occur over a short or long period of time.” Thus, the request was properly denied. Ramirez also requested an instruction stating, “a defendant may witness potential acts of provocation and/or be informed of them afterwards.” Because CALCRIM No. 570 does not contain any restrictions on the means of provocation (i.e. eyewitness observation versus being informed by others), the proposed instruction did not add any content. It was also argumentative because it added emphasis that would favor one side over the other, and was thus properly rejected by the trial court. [Editor’s Note: Justice Stratton filed a concurring and dissenting opinion. In Justice Stratton’s view, the instructions requested by the defense were not argumentative or duplicative, and were supported by substantial evidence. However, the error was harmless in light of the strong evidence Ramirez did not act in the absence of premeditation and deliberation.]

The trial court did not err when it refused to strike defendant’s to 25-year-to-life firearm enhancement. The jury found true a firearm allegation under Penal Code section 12022.53, subdivision (d). At sentencing, the People asked for a sentence of 40 years to life, consisting of 15 years to life for second degree murder plus 25 years to life for the firearm enhancement. Ramirez asked for the court to strike the firearm allegation, but the trial court refused. In explaining its sentencing choices, the trial court twice commented that, regardless of whether it struck the firearm enhancement, Ramirez would become eligible for a youth offender parole hearing at the same time. On appeal, Ramirez argued the trial court misunderstood the impact of its sentencing decision: if the court struck the gun enhancement, he would be eligible for a youth offender parole hearing during his 20th year of incarceration rather than his 25th year of incarceration. The majority concluded that even if the trial court was mistaken about the parole eligibility date, that was not the reason the court declined to strike the gun enhancement, so Ramirez’s argument failed. “[T]he trial court refused to strike the gun enhancement because Ramirez’s shotgun assassination was particularly reprehensible: pensively deliberate, in the teeth of others begging him not to shoot, and cowardly: Ramirez shot Zambrano in the back.” [Editor’s Note: Justice Stratton dissented on this point. In Justice Stratton’s view, the trial court’s comments during sentencing showed the court was unwilling to strike the gun enhancement entirely, but may have been willing to impose the 10-year enhancement instead of the 25-year enhancement. In addition, the trial court’s miscalculation of defendant’s parole eligibility date showed the trial court misunderstood the consequences of the exercise of its discretion, requiring remand for an informed exercise of sentencing discretion.]

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: