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Name: People v. Saavedra
Case #: D049187
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 10/29/2007

Omission of self-defense instructions was harmless. Saavedra was attacked on a prison yard by two other inmates. When he was taken to the hospital, jail authorities found an inmate-produced weapon, wrapped in tissue, in his shoe. Saavedra appealed from a conviction for possessing a weapon while confined in a prison. He contended that the trial court erred by failing to sua sponte instruct on duress and self-defense. In the alternative he contended that counsel was ineffective for failing to request instructions on those two defenses. The appellate court found that the facts did not support a duress defense because there were no facts showing an express or implied demand by the attackers that Saavedra seize the weapon. There was substantial evidence to support a self-defense instruction based on a theory that Saavedra temporarily seized the weapon because of a fear of immediate harm. However, the failure to instruct on self-defense was harmless because the jury was instructed on, and rejected, a theory of necessity. The jury’s verdict reflected that it was unconvinced that Saavedra was telling the truth about his acquisition and failure to disclose the weapon. Therefore the failure to instruct on self-defense did not affect the verdict because the jury did not find Saavedra’s claims credible. For the same reasons, Saavedra’s claim of ineffective assistance of counsel fails.