Court of Appeal Identifies Flaws in Unconsciousness Instruction
May 25th, 2015

People Mathson (2012) 210 Cal. App. 4th 1297, disapproved CC 3425 with respect to the portion that reads, “If there is proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant acted as if he were conscious, you should conclude that he was legally conscious.” The Court of Appeal noted two problems: (1) The instruction is ambiguous because “it could mean that the jury is only to consider whether there is reasonable doubt based on the other evidence if it finds that a defendant acted as if he was not conscious.” (Id. at 1323.) (2) “[I]nstead of telling the jurors they must find the defendant unconscious if they have a reasonable doubt that the defendant conscious, the final sentence directs the jurors to find the defendant not guilty. As we have discussed, in an intoxication case, a defendant who was unconscious must be found not guilty only if the intoxication was involuntary. A defendant who was unconscious may still be found guilty if the intoxication was voluntary. Because the last sentence compels the jury to reach a not guilty verdict instead of compelling a finding regarding consciousness, that sentence is potentially confusing.” (Ibid.)

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