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Name: People v. Villanueva
Case #: B202418
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 12/12/2008
Summary

If the defense of self defense is supported by the evidence but is inconsistent with defendant’s theory of the case, a trial court is not required to instruct on self-defense sua sponte but must do so only if the defendant requests it. Defendant shot and killed the victim. During trial on an attempted murder charge, prior to defendant’s testimony, the defense was one of self-defense, but when appellant testified, he said he fired the gun accidentally. In California, self-defense and accidental homicide are mutually exclusive but a defendant’s assertion of accident may be disregarded by the jury in an appropriate case and instruction on self-defense is not foreclosed when substantial evidence exists that the shooting was intentional and, otherwise, meets the requirements of self-defense. Here, the trial court erred in denying appellant’s request for instruction on self-defense as substantial evidence supported such an instruction, despite defendant’s assertion that the gun accidentally fired. The error was prejudicial, requiring reversal of the attempted second degree murder conviction, because the evidence was evenly balanced.