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Points & Authorities Supporting Defendant’s Request for Special Jury Instructions

JURY INSTRUCTIONS:Points and Authorities

I. THE COURT MUST GIVE SPECIAL JURY INSTRUCTIONS IF RELATED TO DEFENSE THEORIES OF THE CASE

A trial judge, when considering instructions to the jury, shall give no less consideration to those submitted by the attorneys for the respective parties than to those contained in the latest edition of CALJIC. Cal. Rules of Court, Appendix, Division I, Section 5.

Defendant is entitled upon request to an instruction relating particular facts to any legal issue. People v. Sears (1970) 2 Cal.3d 180 at 190, 84 Cal.Rptr. 711. Such a requested instruction may relate the reasonable doubt standard for proof of guilt to particular elements of the crime charged or may pinpoint the crux of a defendant’s case. The court is under an “obligation to instruct on defenses… and on the relationship of these defenses to the elements of the charged offense… where… it appears that the defendant is relying on such a defense,… ” People v. Stewart (1976) 16 Cal.3d 133, 140; People v. Flannel, 25 Cal.3d 668, 680, 681; People v. St. Martin, 1 Cal.3d 524, 531.

The Court has a duty to instruct the jury, and a party has a right to instructions on his theory of the case, if defendant’s theory finds any support in the evidence or any inference which may be properly drawn from the evidence. As stated in People v. Sam (1969) 71 Cal.2d 194, 77 Cal.Rptr. 804, “a defendant is entitled to an instruction on any theory, no matter how remote or incredible, which is supported by any evidence deserving of any consideration whatsoever.” (Citations omitted)

In People v. West (1983) 139 Cal.App.3d 606, 189 Cal.Rptr. 36, there was reversible error due to the failure of the court to give defendant’s proposed instructions. Defendant’s specials listed eight (8) factors for consideration which were not mentioned in the standard instructions and which were supported by the evidence. The West court, id., 139 Cal.App.3d at 608, stated that “the trial court has a duty to give requested defense instructions which direct the jury’s attention to evidence from which the jury could infer a reasonable doubt of defendant’s guilt.”

A trial court must instruct on every theory of the case supported by substantial evidence, including defenses that are not inconsistent with defendant’s theory of the case. (People v. Montoya (1994) 7 Cal.4th 1027, 1047; People v. Jackson (1989) 49 Cal.3d 1170, 1199.) “In reviewing the evidence to determine whether exclusion of a requested instruction was error, ‘[d]oubts as to the sufficiency of the evidence to warrant instructions should be resolved in favor of the accused.’” 1

II. A TRIAL JUDGE HAS A DUTY TO GUIDE THE JURY AND EXPLAIN LEGAL PRINCIPLES

“Discharge of the jury’s responsibility for drawing appropriate conclusions from the testimony depend[s] on discharge of the judge’s responsibility to give the jury the required guidance by a lucid statement of the relevant legal criteria.” (Bollenbach v. U.S. (1946) 326 US 607, 612 [66 SCt 402; 90 LEd 350].) “Jurors are not experts in legal principles; to function effectively, and justly, they must be accurately instructed in the law.” (Carter v. Kentucky (1981) 450 US 288, 302 [101 SCt 1112; 67 LEd2d 241].) “It is quite simply a hallmark of our legal system that juries be carefully and adequately guided in their deliberations.” (Gregg v. Georgia (1976) 428 US 153, 193, 96 SCt 2909; [opn. of Stewart, Powell, and Stevens, JJ.].)

III. DEFENSE ARGUMENT IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR REQUIRED INSTRUCTIONS

Many courts tend to blur the distinction between the separate functions of instruction and argument, often to the detriment of criminal defendants. It is common for the judge to refuse a defendant’s request for a instruction on a specific defense theory or legal principle on the basis that the instruction is “a matter for argument.”

Instruction of the jury by the court and argument to the jury by counsel are two distinct phases of trial, each with its own purpose and impact. On a conceptual level, these functions are not interchangeable–each must fulfill its own discrete purpose. “A jury’s response to instructions from the judge is, and should be, quite different from its response to arguments from counsel. Counsel’s argument is neither law nor evidence, and the jury is so instructed.” (United States v. Bernard (9th Cir. 1980) 625 F2d 854, 857.) “Any suggestion that counsel’s argument can perfect an otherwise faulty jury charge is totally erroneous. Arguments of counsel can never substitute for the instructions given by the Court.” (Goodwin v. Balkcom (11th Cir. 1982) 684 F2d 794, 803, fn 8; see also U.S. v. Ruiz (11th Cir. 1995) 59 F3d 1151, 1154 [court rejected as “disingenuous” prosecution’s argument that defense theory was adequately presented by closing argument of counsel; jury deliberations are guided by the court’s instructions not counsel’s arguments].)

Instructions which accurately define, explain or clarify elements of the offense are appropriate matters for instruction by the court rather then argument of counsel. (See generally Neder v. U.S. (1999) 527 US 1 [119 SCt 1827; 144 LEd 2d 35]; U.S. v. Gaudin (1995) 515 US 506, 515 [115 SCt 2310; 132 LEd2d 444]; Eaglin v. Welborn (7th Cir. 1995) 57 F3d 496, 500.)

IV. THE JUDGE HAS AN OBLIGATION TO PROVIDE INSTRUCTIONS THAT ARE BALANCED BETWEEN THE PROSECUTION AND DEFENSE

If the court gives instructions on presumptions (see e.g., CALCRIM 2110 and 2111) as requested by the prosecution then it would violate the requirement of balance and would implicate due process principles (see generally Wardius v. Oregon (73) 412 US 470 [37 LEd2d 82; 93 SCt 2208]) to relegate to argument analogous defense instructions. (See also People v. Williams (1997) 55 CA4th 648, 652, 64 CR2d 203.

V. CONCLUSION

The court must instruct where there is some evidence supporting a defense theory. Argument cannot substitute for instruction. (See Carter v. Kentucky, supra; People v. Mathews (1994) 25 CA4th 89, 99 [30 CR2d 330] [“[I]nstruction by the trial court would weigh more than a thousand words from the most eloquent defense counsel”]; Ovalle v. State (TX 2000) 13 SW3d 774 [argument of prosecutor did not cure error in failing to inform capital sentencing jury to consider sentencing phase evidence].)

1 Similarly, the defense has the right to instruction on the defense theories of the case. (See generally Mathews v. United States (1988) 485 US 58, 63 [108 SCt 883; 99 LEd2d 54]; Conde v. Henry (9th Cir. 1999) 198 F3d 734, 739.) Such defense theories can range from affirmative defenses such as self defense to evidentiary theories based on logic or reasonable inference such as good character.