California Criminal Jury Instructions (CALCRIM) (2017)

224. Circumstantial Evidence: Sufficiency of Evidence

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224.Circumstantial Evidence: Sufficiency of Evidence
Before you may rely on circumstantial evidence to conclude that a fact
necessary to find the defendant guilty has been proved, you must be
convinced that the People have proved each fact essential to that
conclusion beyond a reasonable doubt.
Also, before you may rely on circumstantial evidence to find the
defendant guilty, you must be convinced that the only reasonable
conclusion supported by the circumstantial evidence is that the
defendant is guilty. If you can draw two or more reasonable conclusions
from the circumstantial evidence, and one of those reasonable
conclusions points to innocence and another to guilt, you must accept
the one that points to innocence. However, when considering
circumstantial evidence, you must accept only reasonable conclusions
and reject any that are unreasonable.
New January 2006; Revised February 2013
BENCH NOTES
Instructional Duty
The court has a sua sponte duty to instruct on how to evaluate circumstantial
evidence if the prosecution substantially relies on circumstantial evidence to
establish any element of the case. (People v. Yrigoyen (1955) 45 Cal.2d 46, 49 [286
P.2d 1] [duty exists where circumstantial evidence relied on to prove any element,
including intent]; see People v. Bloyd (1987) 43 Cal.3d 333, 351–352 [233
Cal.Rptr. 368, 729 P.2d 802]; People v. Heishman (1988) 45 Cal.3d 147, 167 [246
Cal.Rptr. 673, 753 P.2d 629].)
There is no sua sponte duty to give this instruction when the circumstantial
evidence is incidental to and corroborative of direct evidence. (People v. Malbrough
(1961) 55 Cal.2d 249, 250–251 [10 Cal.Rptr. 632, 359 P.2d 30]; People v. Watson
(1956) 46 Cal.2d 818, 831 [299 P.2d 243]; People v. Shea (1995) 39 Cal.App.4th
1257, 1270–1271 [46 Cal.Rptr.2d 388].) This is so even when the corroborative
circumstantial evidence is essential to the prosecution’s case, e.g., when
corroboration of an accomplice’s testimony is required under Penal Code section
1111. (People v. Williams (1984) 162 Cal.App.3d 869, 874 [208 Cal.Rptr. 790].)
If intent is the only element proved by circumstantial evidence, do not give this
instruction. Give CALCRIM No. 225, Circumstantial Evidence: Intent or Mental
State. (People v. Marshall (1996) 13 Cal.4th 799, 849 [55 Cal.Rptr.2d 347, 919
P.2d 1280].)
AUTHORITY
• Direct Evidence Defined. Evid. Code, § 410.
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• Inference Defined. Evid. Code, § 600(b).
• Between Two Reasonable Interpretations of Circumstantial Evidence, Accept the
One That Points to Innocence. People v. Merkouris (1956) 46 Cal.2d 540,
560–562 [297 P.2d 999] [error to refuse requested instruction on this point];
People v. Johnson (1958) 163 Cal.App.2d 58, 62 [328 P.2d 809] [sua sponte
duty to instruct]; see People v. Wade (1995) 39 Cal.App.4th 1487, 1492 [46
Cal.Rptr.2d 645].
• Circumstantial Evidence Must Be Entirely Consistent With a Theory of Guilt
and Inconsistent With Any Other Rational Conclusion. People v. Bender
(1945) 27 Cal.2d 164, 175 [163 P.2d 8] [sua sponte duty to instruct]; People v.
Yrigoyen (1955) 45 Cal.2d 46, 49 [286 P.2d 1] [same].
• Difference Between Direct and Circumstantial Evidence. People v. Lim Foon
(1915) 29 Cal.App. 270, 274 [155 P. 477] [no sua sponte duty to instruct, but
court approves definition]; People v. Goldstein (1956) 139 Cal.App.2d 146,
152–153 [293 P.2d 495] [sua sponte duty to instruct].
• Each Fact in Chain of Circumstantial Evidence Must Be Proved. People v.
Watson (1956) 46 Cal.2d 818, 831 [299 P.2d 243] [error to refuse requested
instruction on this point].
• Sua Sponte Duty When Prosecutor’s Case Rests Substantially on Circumstantial
Evidence. People v. Bloyd (1987) 43 Cal.3d 333, 351–352 [233 Cal.Rptr.
368, 729 P.2d 802].
• This Instruction Upheld. People v. Ibarra (2007) 156 Cal.App.4th 1174,
1186–1187 [67 Cal.Rptr.3d 871].
• This Instruction Cited With Approval. People v. Livingston (2012) 53 Cal.4th
1145, 1166 [140 Cal.Rptr.3d 139, 274 P.3d 1132].
Secondary Sources
1 Witkin & Epstein, California Criminal Law (3d ed. 2000) Elements, § 3.
5Witkin & Epstein, California Criminal Law (3d ed. 2000) Criminal Trial, § 652.
1 Witkin, California Evidence (4th ed. 2000) Circumstantial Evidence, § 117.
4 Millman, Sevilla & Tarlow, California Criminal Defense Practice, Ch. 83,
Evidence, § 83.01[2], Ch. 85, Submission to Jury and Verdict, § 85.03[2][a]
(Matthew Bender).
RELATED ISSUES
Extrajudicial Admissions
Extrajudicial admissions are not the type of indirect evidence requiring instruction
on circumstantial evidence. (People v. Wiley (1976) 18 Cal.3d 162, 174–175 [133
Cal.Rptr. 135, 554 P.2d 881].)
POST-TRIAL: INTRODUCTORY CALCRIM No. 224
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