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Name: People v. Rodriguez
Case #: A114910
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 5
Opinion Date: 11/26/2008
Summary

A defendant may not be convicted on the basis of uncorroborated accomplice testimony, and whether a person is an accomplice is a question of fact for the jury unless there is no dispute as to either the facts or the inferences drawn therefrom. Appellant was convicted of first degree murder and related crimes. At trial, evidence was presented that he and three others drove up next to a car stopped at red light. The car was occupied by the driver and a passenger. Appellant shot at the stopped car and killed the driver. The three individuals with appellant testified against appellant at trial. Appellant’s request that the jury be instructed that the three were accomplices as a matter of law was denied as was appellant’s request for an instruction for a natural and probable consequences doctrine. The appellate court affirmed, finding that because there were factual disputes as to whether the three aided and abetted the charged crimes, either directly or under the natural and probable consequences doctrine, the evidence did not establish as a matter of law that the three were accomplices. When the defense requests an instruction on the general principal of accomplice liability that is legally correct and supported by the evidence, the court must give the instruction. In this case, because there was sufficient evidence to submit to the jury the question as to whether the three witnesses were accomplices under the natural and probable consequences doctrine and because appellant requested an instruction, the court erred in denying the request. However, because the record otherwise contained sufficient evidence corroborating the testimony of the three identifying appellant as the shooter, the error was harmless.