People v. Durham

70 Cal. 2d 171, 74 Cal. Rptr. 262, 449 P.2d 198 (1969)



The aider and abettor in a proper case is not only guilty of the particular crime that to his knowledge his confederates are contemplating committing, but he is also liable for the natural and reasonable or probable consequences of any act that he knowingly aided or encouraged. Whether the act committed was the natural and probable consequence of the act encouraged and the extent of defendant's knowledge are questions of fact for the jury.


A shooter and an accomplice, were pulled over for a traffic stop by city police. Defendant shooter shot and killed a police officer during the stop. At trial, evidence of defendants' pre-shooting crime spree was admitted. Defendants were convicted of murder in the first degree. Defendant accomplice was sentenced to life imprisonment. Defendant shooter was sentenced to death. The accomplice also filed a motion for new trial, which was denied by the Superior Court. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court of California.


Were the convictions proper?




The court affirmed that there was sufficient evidence to support both convictions and sentences. As to defendant accomplice, the court ruled that respondent state properly utilized conspiracy principles, but was not required to prove conspiracy to convict on its sole theory of aiding and abetting. As to defendant shooter, the court ruled that the probative value of his parole status and criminal activities outweighed any prejudicial effect. The court ruled that he received effective assistance of counsel and presented no evidence to the contrary. The court ruled that the probative value of his sodomy conviction in the penalty phase outweighed its prejudicial effects, that jury instructions were proper, and that certain jurors were properly excluded for cause.

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