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Name: People v. Matthews
Case #: B286202
District 2 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 02/28/2019

A mistake in instructing the jury on a superfluous element of a crime does not constitute instructional error. A jury convicted Matthews of a first degree murder committed on December 3, 1978 and found true three special circumstances (that the murder was committed during the commission of robbery, kidnapping, and rape). The jury was instructed under the 1977 version of the special circumstance statute, which required that the defendant "physically aid" in the death. Matthews appealed, arguing, inter alia, that the special circumstance finding must be overturned because the jury instruction failed to define "physically aided," even though that element…

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Name: People v. Vasquez
Case #: B281178
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 12/27/2018

Trial court erred by failing to instruct on lesser included offense of involuntary manslaughter where substantial evidence showed the defendant lacked awareness of the victim's particular vulnerability to fatal injury. Vasquez and a codefendant were charged with special circumstance first degree murder and attempted robbery after an assault on Smith resulted in his death. Smith had metal rods in his neck from a prior surgery, making him susceptible to neck injury. The medical examiner testified most of Smith's injuries were nonlethal on their own. However, Smith's neck fractured near the rods as a result of blunt force trauma, with the…

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Name: People v. Chatman
Case #: C083509
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 01/04/2019

In pandering (Pen. Code, § 266i, subd. (a)(1)) prosecution, trial court did not err by refusing defense's proposed modifications to CALCRIM No. 1151 based on People v. Zambia (2011) 51 Cal.4th 965. Chatman was found guilty of pimping and pandering in violation of section 266i, subdivision (a)(1). On appeal, he argued the trial court erred by refusing a modified instruction on pandering based on People v. Zambia, and counsel was ineffective for failing to request further modifications. Held: Affirmed. A person violates section 266i, subdivision (a)(1) when he procures another person for the purpose of prostitution. Chatman argued that, if…

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Name: People v. Stinson
Case #: C077621
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 01/16/2018

Trial court did not err by modifying CALCRIM No. 1203 to specify that the intent to commit kidnapping for robbery includes the intent to aid in an escape. Stinson and his codefendant approached a man in a parked car, robbed him at gunpoint, and forced him into the trunk of his car. The defendants then left and, using the victim's keys, went to his home and robbed the victim's fiancé at gunpoint. Defendant was convicted of numerous robbery-related offenses, including kidnapping to commit robbery. Stinson challenged the trial court's modification of CALCRIM No. 1203 (the kidnapping for robbery instruction). …

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Name: People v. Munoz
Case #: B282323
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 01/10/2019

Defendant was not entitled to an instruction on gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated as a lesser included offense (LIO) of a Watson murder under the accusatory pleading test. Munoz, while driving under the influence of alcohol, collided with another car, killing its passenger and injuring the driver. He had a prior DUI conviction and attended classes on the dangers of driving while intoxicated. He was charged with implied malice "Watson" second degree murder (People v. Watson (1981) 30 Cal.3d 290) and convicted. On appeal, he challenged the trial court's refusal to instruct on vehicular and involuntary manslaughter as LIOs…

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Name: People v. Atkins
Case #: H044999
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 6 DCA
Opinion Date: 01/30/2019

A conviction for attempting to deter an executive officer in the performance of his duties (Pen. Code, § 69) requires proof that the defendant knew the person he attempted to deter was an executive officer. A jury convicted Atkins of attempting to deter and resisting an executive officer in the performance of his duties. In response to a jury question whether the offense required proof that Atkins knew the person he attempted to deter was an executive officer, the trial court responded no. On appeal, he challenged the jury instruction and the trial court's response to the jury's question. Held:…

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Name: People v. Burton
Case #: C084180
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 12/04/2018

Jury instruction regarding possible inferences to be drawn from a defendant's false statements relating to the "charged" offense, does not create a presumption of guilt as to that crime. A jury found Burton guilty of two counts of first degree murder and found true special circumstance allegations and deadly weapon enhancements. One issue on appeal challenged the "false statements" jury instruction (CALCRIM No. 362) as creating an impermissible inference that Burton committed first degree murder versus a lesser offense. Held: Affirmed. CALCRIM No. 362 provides, in part, if a defendant made a knowingly false or misleading statement before trial relating…

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Name: People v. Stutelberg
Case #: D073266
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 11/21/2018

Erroneous jury instructions allowing jury to conclude that a box cutter is an inherently deadly weapon constituted legal error, requiring reversal of one count. During an altercation outside a bar, Stutelberg jabbed a box cutter at Michelle and Chris, cutting Michelle's head but not injuring Chris. Stutelberg was convicted of mayhem with a deadly weapon enhancement (Pen. Code, §§ 203, 12022, subd. (b)(1)) as to Michelle, and assault with a deadly weapon (Pen. Code, § 245, subd. (a)(1)) as to Chris. As to both deadly weapon allegations, the jury was instructed that a box cutter could be considered…

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Name: People v. Jones
Case #: A149431
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 10/17/2018

Trial court's unnecessary and confusing instruction, which allowed the jury to use evidence of charged burglaries for the nonpropensity purpose of determining guilt as to other charged burglaries, was harmless error. Jones was found guilty of multiple counts of second degree burglary based on numerous car break-ins throughout San Francisco. On appeal he challenged an instruction that allowed the jury to use evidence of the charged burglaries in deciding identity and intent to commit the other charged thefts. Held: Affirmed. Character evidence is generally inadmissible to prove a person's conduct on a specific occasion. (Evid. Code, § 1101, subd. (a)).…

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Name: People v. Yushchuk
Case #: C081739
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 10/12/2018

Instructions that permitted the jury to draw permissive inferences about defendant's blood alcohol level at the time of a collision were proper even though other evidence contradicted the evidence supporting the instructions. Yushchuk, who had a history of DUI offenses, caused a traffic accident and killed a man. A vodka bottle missing ten ounces was found inside his car and Yushchuk claimed he drank the vodka while trapped after the accident. Two hours after the collision, he had a 0.14 percent blood alcohol level. He presented evidence his blood alcohol level was rising based upon drinking after the accident. The…

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