Although there was no direct evidence of the specific act of sexual penetration, defendant’s confession, plus circumstantial evidence of other prohibited acts, established the corpus delicti of the offense. Sanchez was convicted of four sex crimes committed against two minors. Sanchez had admitted to police that he digitally penetrated one of the minors while giving her a piggyback ride. The minor did not recall such an event and no one else witnessed the crime. On appeal, Sanchez claimed the evidence was insufficient to establish the corpus delicti of sexual penetration of a child 10 years of age or younger (Pen. Code, § 288.7, subd. (b)) without his confession. Held: Affirmed. In every criminal case the prosecution must prove the corpus delicti of the offense, that is, the fact of injury, loss, or harm, and the existence of a criminal agency as the cause of the harm. In California, the prosecution may not establish the body of the crime based exclusively on the confession, admission, or extrajudicial statements of the defendant. However, the independent proof may be circumstantial and need not be beyond a reasonable doubt. It is sufficient if it permits a reasonable inference of criminal conduct. While there was no direct evidence of the specific prohibited act other than Sanchez’s confession, there was other direct and circumstantial evidence that Sanchez engaged in unlawful sexual activity with the minor. This was more than sufficient corroborating evidence to provide a prima facie showing of injury, loss, or harm by a criminal agency. As a result, Sanchez’s confession could be considered in full.
The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/C073360.PDF