California Criminal Jury Instructions (CALCRIM) (2017)

571. Voluntary Manslaughter: Imperfect Self-Defense - Lesser Included Offense

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571.Voluntary Manslaughter: Imperfect Self-Defense or Imperfect
Defense of Another—Lesser Included Offense (Pen. Code, § 192)
A killing that would otherwise be murder is reduced to voluntary
manslaughter if the defendant killed a person because (he/she) acted in
(imperfect self-defense/ [or] imperfect defense of another).
If you conclude the defendant acted in complete (self-defense/ [or]
defense of another), (his/her) action was lawful and you must find (him/
her) not guilty of any crime. The difference between complete
(self-defense/ [or] defense of another) and (imperfect self-defense/ [or]
imperfect defense of another) depends on whether the defendant’s belief
in the need to use deadly force was reasonable.
The defendant acted in (imperfect self-defense/ [or] imperfect defense of
another) if:
1. The defendant actually believed that (he/she/ [or] someone else/
<insert name of third party>) was in imminent
danger of being killed or suffering great bodily injury;
2. The defendant actually believed that the immediate use of deadly
force was necessary to defend against the danger;
3. At least one of those beliefs was unreasonable.
Belief in future harm is not sufficient, no matter how great or how
likely the harm is believed to be.
In evaluating the defendant’s beliefs, consider all the circumstances as
they were known and appeared to the defendant.
<The following definition may be given if requested>
[A danger is imminent if, when the fatal wound occurred, the danger
actually existed or the defendant believed it existed. The danger must
seem immediate and present, so that it must be instantly dealt with. It
may not be merely prospective or in the near future.]
[Imperfect self-defense does not apply when the defendant, through (his/
her) own wrongful conduct, has created circumstances that justify (his/
her) adversary’s use of force.]
[If you find that <insert name of decedent/victim>
threatened or harmed the defendant [or others] in the past, you may
consider that information in evaluating the defendant’s beliefs.]
[If you find that the defendant knew that <insert name of
decedent/victim> had threatened or harmed others in the past, you may
consider that information in evaluating the defendant’s beliefs.]
[If you find that the defendant received a threat from someone else that
(he/she) associated with <insert name of decedent/victim>,
you may consider that threat in evaluating the defendant’s beliefs.]
[Great bodily injury means significant or substantial physical injury. It is
an injury that is greater than minor or moderate harm.]
The People have the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that
the defendant was not acting in (imperfect self-defense/ [or] imperfect
defense of another). If the People have not met this burden, you must
find the defendant not guilty of murder.
New January 2006; Revised August 2012, February 2015
Instructional Duty
The court has a sua sponte duty to instruct on voluntary manslaughter on either
theory, heat of passion or imperfect self-defense, when evidence of either is
“substantial enough to merit consideration” by the jury. (People v. Breverman
(1998) 19 Cal.4th 142, 153–163 [77 Cal.Rptr.2d 870, 960 P.2d 1094]; People v.
Barton (1995) 12 Cal.4th 186, 201 [47 Cal.Rptr.2d 569, 906 P.2d 531].)
See discussion of imperfect self-defense in related issues section of CALCRIM No.
505, Justifiable Homicide: Self-Defense or Defense of Another.
Related Instructions
CALCRIM No. 505, Justifiable Homicide: Self-Defense or Defense of Another.
CALCRIM No. 3470, Right to Self-Defense or Defense of Another (Non-Homicide).
CALCRIM No. 3471, Right to Self-Defense: Mutual Combat or Initial Aggressor.
CALCRIM No. 3472, Right to Self-Defense: May Not Be Contrived.
• Elements. Pen. Code, § 192(a).
Imperfect Self-Defense Defined. People v. Flannel (1979) 25 Cal.3d 668,
680–683 [160 Cal.Rptr. 84, 603 P.2d 1]; People v. Barton (1995) 12 Cal.4th
186, 201 [47 Cal.Rptr.2d 569, 906 P.2d 531]; In re Christian S. (1994) 7
Cal.4th 768, 773 [30 Cal.Rptr.2d 33, 872 P.2d 574]; see People v. Uriarte
(1990) 223 Cal.App.3d 192, 197–198 [272 Cal.Rptr. 693] [insufficient evidence
to support defense of another person].
• Imperfect Defense of Others. People v. Randle (2005) 35 Cal.4th 987,
995–1000 [28 Cal.Rptr.3d 725, 111 P.3d 987], overruled on another ground in
People v. Chun (2009) 45 Cal.4th 1172 [91 Cal.Rptr.3d 106, 203 P.3d 425].
• Imperfect Self-Defense May be Available When Defendant Set in Motion Chain
of Events Leading to Victim’s Attack, but Not When Victim was Legally
Justified in Resorting to Self-Defense. People v. Enraca (2012) 53 Cal.4th
735, 761 [137 Cal.Rptr.3d 117, 269 P.3d 543]; People v. Vasquez (2006) 136
Cal.App.4th 1176, 1179–1180 [39 Cal.Rptr.3d 433].
• Imperfect Self-Defense Does Not Apply When Defendant’s Belief in Need for
Self-Defense is Entirely Delusional. People v. Elmore (2014) 59 Cal.4th 121,
145 [172 Cal.Rptr.3d 413, 325 P.3d 951].
• This Instruction Upheld. People v. Lopez (2011) 199 Cal.App.4th 1297, 1306
[132 Cal.Rptr.3d 248]; People v. Genovese (2008) 168 Cal.App.4th 817, 832
[85 Cal.Rptr.3d 664].
• Defendant Relying on Imperfect Self-Defense Must Actually, Although Not
Reasonably, Associate Threat With Victim. People v. Minifie (1996) 13 Cal.4th
1055, 1069 [56 Cal.Rptr.2d 133, 920 P.2d 1337] [in dicta].
Secondary Sources
1 Witkin & Epstein, California Criminal Law (4th ed. 2012) Crimes Against the
Person, §§ 242–244.
3 Millman, Sevilla & Tarlow, California Criminal Defense Practice, Ch. 73,
Defenses and Justifications, § 73.11[1][c], [2][a] (Matthew Bender).
4 Millman, Sevilla & Tarlow, California Criminal Defense Practice, Ch. 85,
Submission to Jury and Verdict, §§ 85.03[2][g], 85.04[1][c] (Matthew Bender).
6 Millman, Sevilla & Tarlow, California Criminal Defense Practice, Ch. 142,
Crimes Against the Person, §§ 142.01[3][d.1], [e], 142.02[1][a], [e], [f], [2][a],
[3][c] (Matthew Bender).
• Attempted Voluntary Manslaughter. People v. Van Ronk (1985) 171
Cal.App.3d 818, 822 [217 Cal.Rptr. 581]; People v. Williams (1980) 102
Cal.App.3d 1018, 1024–1026 [162 Cal.Rptr. 748].
Involuntary manslaughter is not a lesser included offense of voluntary
manslaughter. (People v. Orr (1994) 22 Cal.App.4th 780, 784 [27 Cal.Rptr.2d
Battered Woman’s Syndrome
Evidence relating to battered woman’s syndrome may be considered by the jury
when deciding if the defendant actually feared the batterer and if that fear was
reasonable. (See People v. Humphrey (1996) 13 Cal.4th 1073, 1082–1089 [56
Cal.Rptr.2d 142, 921 P.2d 1].)
Blakeley Not Retroactive
The decision in Blakeley—that one who, acting with conscious disregard for life,
unintentionally kills in imperfect self-defense is guilty of voluntary
manslaughter—may not be applied to defendants whose offense occurred prior to
Blakeley’s June 2, 2000, date of decision. (People v. Blakeley (2000) 23 Cal.4th 82,
91–93 [96 Cal.Rptr.2d 451, 999 P.2d 675].) If a defendant asserts a killing was
done in an honest but mistaken belief in the need to act in self-defense and the
offense occurred prior to June 2, 2000, the jury must be instructed that an
unintentional killing in imperfect self-defense is involuntary manslaughter. (People
v. Johnson (2002) 98 Cal.App.4th 566, 576–577 [119 Cal.Rptr.2d 802]; People v.
Blakeley, supra, 23 Cal.4th at p. 93.)
Inapplicable to Felony Murder
Imperfect self-defense does not apply to felony murder. “Because malice is
irrelevant in first and second degree felony murder prosecutions, a claim of
imperfect self-defense, offered to negate malice, is likewise irrelevant.” (See People
v. Tabios (1998) 67 Cal.App.4th 1, 6–9 [78 Cal.Rptr.2d 753]; see also People v.
Anderson (1991) 233 Cal.App.3d 1646, 1666 [285 Cal.Rptr. 523]; People v.
Loustaunau (1986) 181 Cal.App.3d 163, 170 [226 Cal.Rptr. 216].)
Manslaughter does not apply to the death of a fetus. (People v. Carlson (1974) 37
Cal.App.3d 349, 355 [112 Cal.Rptr. 321].) While the Legislature has included the
killing of a fetus, as well as a human being, within the definition of murder under
Penal Code section 187, it has “left untouched the provisions of section 192,
defining manslaughter [as] the ‘unlawful killing of a human being.’ ” (Ibid.)
See also the Related Issues Section to CALCRIM No. 505, Justifiable Homicide:
Self-Defense or Defense of Another.
Reasonable Person Standard Not Modified by Evidence of Mental Impairment
In People v. Jefferson (2004) 119 Cal.App.4th 508, 519 [14 Cal.Rptr.3d 473], the
court rejected the argument that the reasonable person standard for self-defense
should be the standard of a mentally ill person like the defendant. “The common
law does not take account of a person’s mental capacity when determining whether
he has acted as the reasonable person would have acted. The law holds ‘the
mentally deranged or insane defendant accountable for his negligence as if the
person were a normal, prudent person.’ (Prosser & Keeton, Torts (5th ed. 1984)
§ 32, p. 177.)” (Ibid.; see also Rest.2d Torts, § 283B.)