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Name: People v. Schuller (2023) 15 Cal.5th 237
Case #: S272237
Court: CA Supreme Court
Opinion Date: 08/17/2023

Opinion by: Justice Groban (unanimous decision). Justice Liu filed a concurring opinion, in which Justice Evans concurred.

When a defendant presents substantial evidence of imperfect self-defense, the trial court’s failure to instruct on that theory precludes the jury from making a factual finding essential to prove the malice element of murder, and results in federal constitutional error. Schuller was convicted of first degree murder and found sane at the time of the killing. On appeal he argued the trial court’s refusal to instruct on imperfect self-defense was federal constitutional error. The Court of Appeal agreed the trial court erred in failing…

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Name: People v. Bates
Case #: C086471
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 05/07/2019

Because the defendant was unaware of the victim's prior threatening conduct, such conduct was not relevant to show defendant's state of mind for purposes of self-defense. During defendant's murder trial, several witnesses testified about past events in which the victim made threats and brandished a gun in a menacing manner. There was no evidence that defendant knew about these threats prior to the homicide. Defendant requested a self-defense instruction specifically stating that the jury could consider the victim's past threats or harm to defendant or others in deciding whether the defendant's conduct and beliefs were reasonable. The trial court denied…

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Name: People v. Chestra
Case #: B264462
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 5
Opinion Date: 03/17/2017

Trial court did not err in failing to instruct on voluntary manslaughter where defendant initially confessed to murder but later claimed he was not the shooter. Defendant Chestra confessed to shooting a former friend and fellow gang member in the head. Defendant then recanted and testified at trial that he accompanied his girlfriend to the victim's apartment to buy drugs, the victim brandished scissors, they fought, and defendant's girlfriend shot the victim. Defendant was convicted of first degree murder and allegations that he personally used a firearm were found true. On appeal, defendant argued that the trial court should have…

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Name: People v. Sibrian
Case #: A143369
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 09/07/2016

During trial for resisting an officer, court did not abuse its discretion by allowing expert testimony concerning excessive force where the arresting officer used more than bare hands. During Sibrian's trial for resisting an officer (Pen. Code, §69), the prosecution had an expert on excessive force give opinion testimony, based on a hypothetical that closely tracked the facts of this case, that an arresting officer's use of force (punching and tasering someone to remove him from his car during a traffic stop) was consistent with the "industry standard." The jury convicted Sibrian, who appealed and argued that the expert's testimony…

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Name: People v. Grays
Case #: A139538
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 5
Opinion Date: 04/15/2016

Trial court erred when it refused to instruct the jury that a person using force within his residence against a person who forcibly enters shall be presumed to have held a reasonable fear of injury to self or another member of the household (Pen. Code, § 198.5). Grays was convicted of second degree murder and being a felon in possession of a gun; a firearm use enhancement was found true. At trial, Grays requested that the court instruct on the section 198.5 presumption that he was in reasonable fear of imminent danger to self or another member of the household…

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Name: People v. Wright
Case #: A139881
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 12/15/2015

In murder case, trial court erred in refusing to instruct on provocation and heat of passion based on long course of provocatory conduct, but the error was harmless. Following years of discord and custody battles involving their son, Wright went to her ex-boyfriend Green's house, waited for him to return home, and shot him to death. In her first trial, the jury hung on the murder count, but convicted Wright of shooting at an occupied vehicle. In her second trial, Wright was convicted of first degree murder with a special circumstance finding of lying in wait and a gun use…

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Name: People v. Leeds
Case #: B243376
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 6
Opinion Date: 09/28/2015

In sanity trial, the jury should have been instructed that the defendant was legally insane if (1) he suffered from a delusional state and (2) his delusion, if true, would lawfully justify killing in self-defense. Leeds, a paranoid schizophrenic, killed his father and three other men because he believed they were conspiring to kill him. Pursuant to a plea agreement that precluded imposition of a death sentence, he entered pleas of guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity to four counts of first degree murder, and admitted other allegations. At his sanity trial, defense experts testified that Leeds was…

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Name: People v. Ramirez
Case #: G049935
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 01/28/2014

CALCRIM No. 3472 (contrived self-defense), misstates the law by directing the conclusion that a defendant who provokes a fight intending to use only non-deadly force, has no right of self-defense against an adversary's deadly attack. Ramirez and his brother were convicted of special circumstance murder, gun use, and participating in a gang, after a confrontation with several rival gang members devolved from a fistfight to use of deadly force. Defendants claimed on appeal the jury was erroneously precluded from considering their self-defense claim because of the instruction on contrived self-defense. Held: Reversed. The jury was given CALCRIM No. 3472 ("A…

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Name: People v. Zinda
Case #: C072981
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 01/27/2015

Defendant was not entitled to sua sponte instructions on justifiable homicide in making an arrest or mistake of fact where he mistook innocent man for a burglar and killed him with an axe. Immediately after Zinda's home was burglarized, he saw Valdez standing on the street nearby. Believing Valdez had been involved in the burglary, Zinda chased Valdez into a field and killed him with an axe. He was convicted of second degree murder. On appeal, Zinda contended that the trial court erred by not instructing the jury sua sponte on justifiable homicide in making an…

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Name: People v. Dowdell
Case #: H037404
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 6 DCA
Opinion Date: 07/17/2014

Trial court erred by failing to properly instruct on intimate partner battering evidence, but the error was harmless. Lincoln and Dowdell were tried before dual juries for offenses arising out of a robbery/carjacking/kidnap incident. Dowdell presented evidence of intimate partner battering at trial, and requested a special instruction that would have allowed the jury to consider evidence of intimate partner battering in deciding whether she formed the specific intent required for the crimes. The trial court limited the jury's use of such evidence to deciding whether Dowdell committed the crime to defend herself from an immediate threat of great bodily…

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