Skip to content
Name: People v. Santana
Case #: S198324
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 06/10/2013

CALCRIM No. 801, defining mayhem, improperly requires the prosecution to prove that defendant caused “serious bodily injury.” By jury, appellant was convicted of attempted mayhem, resulting from an incident where he shot the victim three times in the leg and buttock area. The trial court instructed the jury with a modified version of CALCRIM No. 801, the standard jury instruction for mayhem. The Court of Appeal reversed appellant’s conviction, holding that the modified instruction was unfairly argumentative. The Supreme Court reversed. CALCRIM No. 801 provides that “the people must prove that the defendant caused serious bodily injury when he unlawfully and maliciously disabled or made useless a part of someone’s body and the disability was more than slight or temporary.” The trial court here also instructed the jury that “[a] serious bodily injury means a serious impairment of physical condition. Such an injury may include a gunshot wound.” This instruction was incorrect. Penal Code section 203 does not mention “serious bodily injury” and no cases have held that such an injury is an element of mayhem. By delineating the type of injuries in section 203 that will suffice for mayhem, the Legislature established an injury’s requisite level of seriousness and, when needed, subsequent cases have provided further clarification. The inclusion of the “serious bodily injury” requirement in CALCRIM No. 801 is inconsistent with the statutory definition of mayhem as set forth in section 203, and is more confusing than elucidating. The erroneous addition of this requirement did not prejudice the defendant because the prosecution was held to an arguably higher burden of proof. The court declined to decide whether the explanation that a serious bodily injury may include a gunshot wound was argumentative because any error was harmless.