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Name: Powell v. Galaza
Case #: 01-15195
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 05/06/2003

During Powell’s trial for failure to appear at his sentencing, he testified that he was afraid to go back to state prison. The trial court instructed the jury that Powell’s own testimony satisfied the specific intent element of the crime, by telling them that he intended to evade the process of the court, as he knew he would be going to prison. The Ninth Circuit reversed the denial of Powell’s petition for writ of habeas corpus. Because specific intent was the only contested issue in the case, the trial court’s instruction essentially directed a verdict of guilty. Such an instruction is impermissible under the principles of Carella v. California (1989) 491 U.S. 263 and Sandstrom v. Montana (1979) 442 U.S. 510. A harmless error analysis is inapplicable; reversal was required.