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Name: People v. Stringer
Case #: D073877
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 11/07/2019

Jury instruction for aggravated kidnapping prejudicially allowed conviction under the legally invalid theory that defendant kidnapped to exact money or something valuable from the kidnap victim. A jury convicted Stringer of aggravated kidnapping (Pen. Code, § 209, subd. (a)) and other offenses. On appeal, Stringer argued the jury instructions given as to aggravated kidnapping permitted the jury to find him guilty of the offenses on a legally invalid basis. Held: Aggravated kidnapping convictions reversed. Section 209, subdivision (a) describes four types of aggravated kidnapping: (1) for ransom; (2) for reward; (3) to commit extortion; and (4) to exact from another…

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Name: People v. Ramirez
Case #: B289035
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 8
Opinion Date: 09/24/2019

Trial court properly denied defendant's request for pinpoint instructions related to voluntary manslaughter because one instruction was duplicative of CALCRIM No. 570 and another was argumentative. Ramirez shot Zambrano in the back during an altercation after the victim punched Ramirez's friend in the face during the friend's wedding reception. Ramirez was convicted by a jury of second degree murder. He appealed, challenging the trial court's failure to give pinpoint instructions requested by the defense. Held: Affirmed. Defendants have a right to an instruction pinpointing their defense theory, but the court may refuse incorrect, argumentative, duplicative, or…

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Name: People v. Vital
Case #: B288533
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 10/03/2019

Judgment reversed where jury was improperly instructed that aider and abettor to violations of Penal Code section 288.7, subdivision (b) had to be at least 18 years old and was not instructed that direct perpetrator must satisfy age requirement. In addition to other offenses, Vital was prosecuted under an aiding and abetting theory of liability for violations of section 288.7, subdivision (b) (oral copulation with a child 10 years old or younger) for encouraging a woman to film herself performing sexual acts with a young child. The court instructed the jury that the prosecutor had to prove the defendant was…

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Name: People v. Meneses
Case #: G055942
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 10/10/2019

Jury instruction allowing one proved sexual offense to be used to show a defendant's propensity to commit the other charged sex offenses correctly stated the law. A jury found defendant guilty of four counts of committing a lewd act upon a child and found One Strike, multiple victim sentencing allegations true. On appeal he argued the trial court erred by instructing the jury it could rely on currently charged offenses to find he had committed the other charged offenses (CALCRIM No. 1191B). Held: Affirmed. The jury was instructed that if the prosecution proved beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant committed…

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Name: People v. Kumar
Case #: A150107
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 08/30/2019

Trial court's failure to define "criminal negligence" in jury instructions was harmless error where the instructions and arguments of counsel correctly informed the jury of the elements of the crime. Defendant Kumar raced a codefendant down a parkway, hitting the victim's car and causing a fatal car accident. Defendant was convicted of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence (Pen. Code, § 192, subd. (c)(1)) and sentenced to two years in prison. During trial, the jury was instructed on both the felony offense and the lesser included misdemeanor offense of vehicular manslaughter with ordinary negligence. On appeal, Kumar argued the…

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Name: People v. Aledamat
Case #: S248105
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 08/26/2019

Opinion by Justice Chin (joined by Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye and Justices Corrigan and Kruger). Justice Liu filed a concurring and dissenting opinion. Justice Cuéllar also filed a concurring and dissenting opinion, in which Justice Groban concurred.

When a trial court instructs a jury on two theories of guilt and one of the theories is legally incorrect (alternative-theory error), the more general harmless beyond a reasonable doubt standard applies. Defendant approached the owner of a food truck, made crude comments about his wife, and jabbed a box cutter towards him from three to four feet away, without making contact.…

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Name: People v. Brackins
Case #: H043584
District 6 DCA
Opinion Date: 07/02/2019

Trial court properly denied defendant's request to insert language requiring a finding of malice into the jury instruction for attempting to dissuade a witness. Over the course of several years, Janet A. called the police multiple times to report instances of domestic violence against her by her partner, defendant. On one occasion Jane Doe (Janet and defendant's daughter) witnessed the alleged violence. While a police officer was speaking to Janet, defendant called. Jane answered on speakerphone, and defendant yelled that she better not be talking to police. Defendant was charged with attempting to dissuade a witness (Pen. Code, § 136.1,…

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Name: People v. Sexton
Case #: D075380
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 07/15/2019

Trial court did not err in instructing the jury with CALCRIM No. 850 on intimate partner battery. Defendant was convicted of multiple crimes against his ex-wife, Jane Doe. During the investigation, Jane initially accused defendant of domestic violence, then recanted, and later went back to her initial allegations. At trial, an expert testified that victims of intimate partner battering may cycle between seeking assistance and supporting their battering partners, including by making false statements to police. On appeal, defendant challenged CALCRIM No. 850, the standard jury instruction regarding testimony by complaining witnesses in cases in which the jury…

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Name: People v. Turner
Case #: C086476
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 07/23/2019

A trial court has no duty to sua sponte instruct the jury that the prosecution must prove great bodily injury as an element of mayhem. Upset about the sale of a truck, Turner and her boyfriend Rafferty snuck into Mary H.'s home and robbed her. When Mary tried to escape, Turner cut Mary's face with a knife, splitting her upper lip wide open. Mary's lip healed but left a visible scar. A jury convicted Turner of first degree robbery and mayhem. On appeal, Turner argued the trial court should have instructed the jury that any…

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Name: People v. Grandberry
Case #: A152188
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 05/21/2019

Trial court may properly instruct the jury with CALCRIM No. 361 when a testifying defendant fails to explain or deny matters that are within the scope of relevant cross-examination, even if he is not directly questioned about the incriminating evidence. A jury convicted defendant of unlawful possession of a dirk or dagger while confined in state prison. On appeal he argued it was error for the trial court to instruct the jury that it could draw unfavorable inferences from his failure to explain or deny incriminating evidence in his testimony (CALCRIM No. 361) because he did explain or deny evidence…

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