Should Accomplice Corroboration Instruction Be Repeated at Penalty Phase?
October 18th, 2019
In People v. Gomez (2018) 6 Cal 5th 243 the trial court failed to reinstruct the jury during the penalty phase that independent evidence must corroborate accomplice testimony. The CSC concluded that any error was harmless. The jury had concluded the defendant was guilty in four of five murders charged. The prosecutor did not focus on the one murder linked to defendant by accomplice testimony, on which the jury could not reach a verdict at guilt phase. The jurors were instructed that if they found beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant did commit this murder, they could consider that in aggravation. Jurors who did not find the murder proved could not consider it in aggravation. Finally, the prosecution offered substantial evidence concerning other violent acts committed by the defendant and the defense provided relatively little evidence in mitigation. Under these circumstances the CSC assumed that instructional error was committed but held that there was no reasonable possibility that the error affected the jury’s penalty determination.
Tags: CC 334, CC 335, Death Penalty