People v. Wu

235 Cal. App. 3d 614, 286 Cal. Rptr. 868 (1991)

 

RULE:

A defendant is entitled to an instruction on any defense which is supported by substantial evidence and in determining whether such evidence exists, the trial court must not weigh the credibility of witnesses, nor focus on the fact there is conflict in the evidence, but must resolve any doubts as to the credibility and sufficiency of the evidence in favor of the defendant. 

FACTS:

Defendant challenged her conviction of second degree murder of her son and sentence to prison from 15 years to life, contending that the trial court erred in refusing to give two requested jury instructions, one relating to the defense of unconsciousness and the other relating to the effect that her Chinese cultural background may have had on her state of mind when she killed her son. The court reversed defendant's conviction.

ISSUE:

Did the trial court commit prejudicial error by refusing to give two jury instructions requested by defendant?

ANSWER:

Yes.

CONCLUSION:

It was error for the trial court to refuse to instruct the jury on unconsciousness despite the existence of evidence to support the giving of such an instruction. The court reasoned that the issue of unconsciousness had not been adversely resolved toward defendant under other instructions given. The court further ordered the trial court to grant defendant's jury instruction which pointed out that the jury may consider evidence of defendant's cultural background in determining the presence or absence of the relevant mental states, which was clearly relevant on the issues of premeditation and deliberation.

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