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Name: People v. Torres
Case #: B163612
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 03/30/2005

At the sanity phase of his (second) trial, the court instructed the jury pursuant to CALJIC 4.00 on the definition of insanity, but modified the instruction by adding language further defining the word “wrong” to include both legal and moral wrongs, as defined by “society’s generally accepted standards.” The appellate court found error and reversed. As modified, the instruction required the defendant to meet the burden of proving he was incapable of distinguishing right from both moral and legal wrong at the time he committed the crimes. Appellant was prejudiced by the error because his statements afterwards showed that he knew he would be arrested for the offense, and therefore knew he was committing a legal wrong. The jury was therefore able to find him sane despite finding that he could not distinguish between a moral right and a moral wrong. (Appellant suffered from a delusion that doctors were injecting him and others with lethal materials and therefore he was morally justified in killing doctors.) Therefore, the erroneous instruction required a reversal of the finding of sanity and remand for a new sanity hearing. Further, due process and double jeopardy principles prohibit the imposition of a greater sentence following retrial. Therefore, if appellant is found sane, the court may not impose a sentence greater than life plus twelve years, which was the sentence imposed at appellant’s first trial.