CALCRIM No. 520. First or Second Degree Murder With Malice Aforethought (Pen. Code, § 187)

Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions (2024 edition)

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520.First or Second Degree Murder With Malice Aforethought
(Pen. Code, § 187)
The defendant is charged [in Count ] with murder [in violation of
Penal Code section 187].
To prove that the defendant is guilty of this crime, the People must
prove that:
[1A. The defendant committed an act that caused the death of
(another person/ [or] a fetus);]
[1B. The defendant had a legal duty to (help/care
for/rescue/warn/maintain the property of/ <insert
other required action[s]>)__________ <insert description of
decedent/person to whom duty is owed> and the defendant failed to
perform that duty and that failure caused the death of (another
person/ [or] a fetus);]
2. When the defendant (acted/ [or] failed to act), (he/she) had a state
of mind called malice aforethought(;/.)
<Give element 3 when instructing on justifiable or excusable homicide.>
3. (He/She) killed without lawful (excuse/ [or] justification).]
There are two kinds of malice aforethought, express malice and implied
malice. Proof of either is sufficient to establish the state of mind required
for murder.
The defendant had express malice if (he/she) unlawfully intended to kill.
The defendant had implied malice if:
1. (He/She) intentionally (committed the act/ [or] failed to act);
2. The natural and probable consequences of the (act/ [or] failure to
act) were dangerous to human life in that the (act/ [or] failure to
act) involved a high degree of probability that it would result in
3. At the time (he/she) (acted/ [or] failed to act), (he/she) knew (his/
her) (act/ [or] failure to act) was dangerous to human life;
4. (He/She) deliberately (acted/ [or] failed to act) with conscious
disregard for (human/ [or] fetal) life.
Malice aforethought does not require hatred or ill will toward the victim.
It is a mental state that must be formed before the act that causes death
is committed. It does not require deliberation or the passage of any
particular period of time.
[It is not necessary that the defendant be aware of the existence of a
fetus to be guilty of murdering that fetus.]
[A fetus is an unborn human being that has progressed beyond the
embryonic stage after major structures have been outlined, which
typically occurs at seven to eight weeks after fertilization.]
[(An act/ [or] (A/a) failure to act) causes death if the death is the direct,
natural, and probable consequence of the (act/ [or] failure to act) and
the death would not have happened without the (act/ [or] failure to act).
Anatural and probable consequence is one that a reasonable person
would know is likely to happen if nothing unusual intervenes. In
deciding whether a consequence is natural and probable, consider all of
the circumstances established by the evidence.]
[There may be more than one cause of death. (An act/ [or] (A/a) failure
to act) causes death only if it is a substantial factor in causing the death.
Asubstantial factor is more than a trivial or remote factor. However, it
does not need to be the only factor that causes the death.]
[(A/An) <insert description of person owing duty> has a legal
duty to (help/care for/rescue/warn/maintain the property of/
<insert other required action[s]>)<insert description of
decedent/person to whom duty is owed>.]
<Give the following bracketed paragraph if the second degree is the only
possible degree of the crime for which the jury may return a verdict>
[If you find the defendant guilty of murder, it is murder of the second
<Give the following bracketed paragraph if there is substantial evidence of
first degree murder>
[If you decide that the defendant committed murder, it is murder of the
second degree, unless the People have proved beyond a reasonable doubt
that it is murder of the first degree as defined in CALCRIM No.
<insert number of appropriate first degree murder instruction>.]
New January 2006; Revised August 2009, October 2010, February 2013, August
2013, September 2017, March 2019, September 2019, March 2021, March 2024
Instructional Duty
The court has a sua sponte duty to instruct on the first two elements of the crime. If
there is sufficient evidence of excuse or justification, the court has a sua sponte
duty to include the third, bracketed element in the instruction. (People v. Frye
(1992) 7 Cal.App.4th 1148, 1155-1156 [10 Cal.Rptr.2d 217].) The court also has a
sua sponte duty to give any other appropriate defense instructions. (See CALCRIM
Nos. 505-627, and CALCRIM Nos. 3470-3477.)
If causation is at issue, the court has a sua sponte duty to instruct on proximate
cause. (People v. Bernhardt (1963) 222 Cal.App.2d 567, 590-591 [35 Cal.Rptr.
401].) If the evidence indicates that there was only one cause of death, the court
should give the “direct, natural, and probable” language in the first bracketed
paragraph on causation. If there is evidence of multiple causes of death, the court
should also give the “substantial factor” instruction and definition in the second
bracketed causation paragraph. (See People v. Carney (2023) 14 Cal.5th 1130,
1138-1139 [310 Cal.Rptr.3d 685, 532 P.3d 696]; People v. Autry (1995) 37
Cal.App.4th 351, 363 [43 Cal.Rptr.2d 135]; People v. Pike (1988) 197 Cal.App.3d
732, 746-747 [243 Cal.Rptr. 54].) If there is an issue regarding a superseding or
intervening cause, give the appropriate portion of CALCRIM No. 620, Causation:
Special Issues.
If the prosecution’s theory of the case is that the defendant committed murder based
on his or her failure to perform a legal duty, the court may give element 1B.
Review the Bench Notes to CALCRIM No. 582, Involuntary Manslaughter: Failure
to Perform Legal Duty - Murder Not Charged.
If the defendant is charged with first degree murder, give this instruction and
CALCRIM No. 521, First Degree Murder. If the defendant is charged with second
degree murder, no other instruction need be given.
If the defendant is also charged with first degree felony murder, instruct on that
crime and give CALCRIM No. 548, Murder: Alternative Theories.
Elements. Pen. Code, § 187.
Malice. Pen. Code, § 188; People v. Dellinger (1989) 49 Cal.3d 1212,
1217-1222 [264 Cal.Rptr. 841, 783 P.2d 200]; People v. Nieto Benitez (1992) 4
Cal.4th 91, 103-105 [13 Cal.Rptr.2d 864, 840 P.2d 969]; People v. Blakeley
(2000) 23 Cal.4th 82, 87 [96 Cal.Rptr.2d 451, 999 P.2d 675].
“Dangerous to Human Life” Defined. People v. Reyes (2023) 14 Cal.5th 981,
989 [309 Cal.Rptr.3d 832, 531 P.3d 357].
Causation. People v. Carney (2023) 14 Cal.5th 1130, 1137-1139 [310
Cal.Rptr.3d 685, 532 P.3d 696] [concurrent causation]; People v. Roberts (1992)
2 Cal.4th 271, 315-321 [6 Cal.Rptr.2d 276, 826 P.2d 274] [successive causation].
“Fetus” Defined. People v. Davis (1994) 7 Cal.4th 797, 814-815 [30 Cal.Rptr.2d
50, 872 P.2d 591]; People v. Taylor (2004) 32 Cal.4th 863, 867 [11 Cal.Rptr.3d
510, 86 P.3d 881].
Ill Will Not Required for Malice. People v. Sedeno (1974) 10 Cal.3d 703, 722
[112 Cal.Rptr. 1, 518 P.2d 913], overruled on other grounds in People v. Flannel
(1979) 25 Cal.3d 668, 684, fn. 12 [160 Cal.Rptr. 84, 603 P.2d 1]; People v.
Breverman (1998) 19 Cal.4th 142, 163 [77 Cal.Rptr.2d 870, 960 P.2d 1094].
Prior Version of This Instruction Upheld. People v. Genovese (2008) 168
Cal.App.4th 817, 831 [85 Cal.Rptr.3d 664].
Voluntary Manslaughter. Pen. Code, § 192(a).
Involuntary Manslaughter. Pen. Code, § 192(b).
Attempted Murder. Pen. Code, §§ 663, 189.
Sentence Enhancements and Special Circumstances Not Considered in Lesser
Included Offense Analysis. People v. Boswell (2016) 4 Cal.App.5th 55, 59-60
[208 Cal.Rptr.3d 244].
Gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated (Pen. Code, § 191.5(a)) and
vehicular manslaughter (Pen. Code, § 192(c)) are not lesser included offenses of
murder. (People v. Sanchez (2001) 24 Cal.4th 983, 988-992 [103 Cal.Rptr.2d 698,
16 P.3d 118]; People v. Bettasso (2020) 49 Cal.App.5th 1050, 1059 [263 Cal.Rptr.3d
563].) Similarly, child abuse homicide (Pen. Code, § 273ab) is not a necessarily
included offense of murder. (People v. Malfavon (2002) 102 Cal.App.4th 727, 744
[125 Cal.Rptr.2d 618].)
Causation - Foreseeability
Authority is divided on whether a causation instruction should include the concept
of foreseeability. (See People v. Autry, supra, 37 Cal.App.4th at pp. 362-363;
People v. Temple (1993) 19 Cal.App.4th 1750, 1756 [24 Cal.Rptr.2d 228] [refusing
defense-requested instruction on foreseeability in favor of standard causation
instruction]; but see People v. Gardner (1995) 37 Cal.App.4th 473, 483 [43
Cal.Rptr.2d 603] [suggesting the following language be used in a causation
instruction: “[t]he death of another person must be foreseeable in order to be the
natural and probable consequence of the defendant’s act”].) It is clear, however, that
it is error to instruct a jury that foreseeability is immaterial to causation. (People v.
Roberts, supra, 2 Cal.4th at p. 315 [error to instruct a jury that when deciding
causation it “[w]as immaterial that the defendant could not reasonably have foreseen
the harmful result”].)
Second Degree Murder of a Fetus
The defendant does not need to know a woman is pregnant to be convicted of
second degree murder of her fetus. (People v. Taylor (2004) 32 Cal.4th 863, 868 [11
Cal.Rptr.3d 510, 86 P.3d 881] [“[t]here is no requirement that the defendant
specifically know of the existence of each victim”].) “[B]y engaging in the conduct
he did, the defendant demonstrated a conscious disregard for all life, fetal or
otherwise, and hence is liable for all deaths caused by his conduct.” (Id. at p. 870.)
1 Witkin & Epstein, California Criminal Law (4th ed. 2012) Crimes Against the
Person, §§ 96-101, 112-113.
6 Millman, Sevilla & Tarlow, California Criminal Defense Practice, Ch. 140,
Challenges to Crimes, § 140.04; Ch. 142, Crimes Against the Person, § 142.01
(Matthew Bender).

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