An appropriate instruction should inform the jury that a person aids and abets the commission of a crime when he or she, acting with (1) knowledge of the unlawful purpose of the perpetrator; and (2) the intent or purpose of committing, encouraging, or facilitating the commission of the offense, (3) by act or advice aids, promotes, encourages or instigates, the commission of the crime.
A man gave information to 2 acquaintances regarding his sister-in-law. This information was that she had valuable jewellery in her house and a floor plan of her home. This information aided in the robbery and burglary of his sister-in-law’s jewellery. Charges were later filed against this man along with his 2 acquaintances. While defendant did not deny giving information to the two acquaintances, his defense was that the giving of information was made innocently and that he was not aware of the crimes that would happen. He was not present during the commission of the offenses. He was convicted under the theory that he aided and abetted his acquaintances in the criminal acts. On appeal, he attacked the jury instructions on criminal intent required to convict for aiding and abetting, claiming that liability requires proof of intent to aid the perpetrators under which knowledge of the perpetrators' unlawful purpose was required. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court of California.
Was the trial courts instruction to the jury prejudicial to the case?
The Court held that the trial court's instruction to the jury was erroneous and prejudicial. The trial court should have modified its instruction, as requested by defendant, to indicate that aiding and abetting liability required proof of intent to aid. The trial court should have informed the jury that defendant aided and abetted the crimes if in acting with knowledge of the unlawful purpose of the perpetrator and with intent or purpose of committing, encouraging, or facilitating the commission of the offenses, his acts or advice aided, promoted, encouraged, or instigated the commission of the crimes.