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Name: People v. Smith
Case #: D051448
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 11/05/2008

A defendant’s rights to due process and a fair trial are not violated when the trial court preinstructs on definitions of direct and circumstantial evidence per CALCRIM No. 223 but does not also preinstruct with CALCRIM No. 224 on assessing the sufficiency of the circumstantial evidence, but does then instruct with both at the close of evidence. Although Penal Code section 1222 mandates that certain jury instructions concerning trial procedure, such as not discussing the case, are to be read to the jury after it has been sworn, trial courts otherwise have wide discretion as to when to instruct the jury. And, there is nothing in the statutes on preinstruction or order of trial proceedings (Pen. Code, secs. 1093-1094) that mandates that a trial court preinstruct on burdens of proof, presumption of innocence, or methods of weighing circumstantial evidence. Appellant argued that the failure to instruct with CALCRIM No. 224 when it instructs with CALCRIM No. 223 results in constitutional error because, in effect, it is an incomplete and confusing instruction that may result in guilty verdicts without the requisite beyond a reasonable doubt standard. The appellate court rejected this argument, noting that the court properly instructed at the close of evidence, thereby providing the jury with the necessary clarification.