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Name: People v. Sudar
Case #: A115464
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 01/02/2008

In an NGI proceeding, the failure to instruct the jury that the prosecution must prove “serious difficulty controlling dangerous behavior” was harmless error. Appellant contended on appeal from his extended NGI commitment that reversal was required due to the trial court’s failure to give a requested jury instruction. Appellant had argued that the standard jury instruction, CALCRIM 3453, should be modified to include the requirement set forth in In re Howard N. that the prosecution prove the person to be committed could not control his dangerous behavior. The trial court denied the request, and the jury was instructed with CALCRIM 3453 that the jury had to find that appellant posed a danger to others due to his mental illness. On appeal, respondent conceded that the trial court erred in failing to instruct the jury pursuant to Howard N., but argued that the error was harmless because there was overwhelming evidence that appellant had serious difficulty controlling his dangerous behavior. The appellate court agreed and affirmed. The evidence was undisputed that appellant suffered the same delusions he had at the time of commitment that if God told him to do something, he had to do it. The evidence showed that appellant did not try to control his dangerous behavior because he perceived he had no reason to do so. The instructional error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.