Supreme Court of California Justia
Docket No. S119067
People v. Wright

Filed 5/26/05 (Publish this opinion before People v. Randle, also filed 5/26/05)


Plaintiff and Respondent,
) Ct.App.
Defendant and Appellant.
Super.Ct.No. 99F09290

In In re Christian S. (1994) 7 Cal.4th 768 (Christian S.), we reaffirmed that
an actual, though unreasonable, belief in the need to defend oneself from an
imminent threat of death or great bodily injury negates the malice element of
murder, reducing the offense to manslaughter. (See also People v. Flannel (1979)
25 Cal.3d 668, 674.) We granted review in this case to consider whether to extend
this “doctrine of imperfect self-defense” (Christian S., at p. 771) to a case in which
the defendant’s actual, though unreasonable, belief in the need to defend himself
was based on delusions and/or hallucinations resulting from mental illness or
voluntary intoxication, without any objective circumstances suggestive of a threat.
After studying the record, we conclude that we do not need to reach that issue
here, because defendant was able to claim imperfect self-defense, the jury heard
evidence supporting that defense, and the trial court’s exclusion of additional
evidence supporting that defense was not prejudicial to defendant. Accordingly,

because defendant was not prejudiced by the exclusion of this additional evidence,
we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeal.
A. The Prosecution Case
Eddie and Laura Sanchez and their children moved next door to defendant
in April 1996. In the early morning hours of November 15, 1999, defendant
visited the Sanchez home, shot and killed Eddie, and then wounded Clarence
Redoble, a friend of defendant’s who had accompanied him. Eddie had been
urging defendant out the door, when defendant pulled out a Kimber .45 pistol,
loaded with Black Talon hollow-point bullets, and fired, while members of the
Sanchez family sat in the living room watching a movie. According to witness
accounts, no argument or threatening conduct preceded the shooting.
The previous day, the Sanchez family had hosted a barbecue. They dug a
fire pit in the backyard. Two of Eddie’s brothers, John and Anthony, their
families, and Laura’s younger sister, Tracey, were at the house. This was not
unusual. The families were close-knit. Family members visited often and
frequently stayed overnight. About a month before the shooting, Anthony was
sleeping on the couch at Eddie’s house, when he was awakened by defendant
knocking on the door. Defendant told Anthony someone was trying to burglarize
Eddie’s car, and then he said, “Don’t worry, I got something for them,” showing
Anthony a gun he had tucked in his waistband. Anthony’s impression was that
defendant “was a little off” and “kind of odd.”
Clarence Redoble, defendant’s friend, lived five minutes away from
defendant, and as he often did, he saw defendant several times on November 14,
the day before the shooting. That morning, at defendant’s insistence, he brought
his pit bulls over to defendant’s house and released them in the crawlspace under
the house as a security precaution. Defendant thought people were trying to gain
access to his house by tunneling their way into the crawlspace. Redoble went
back later to feed the dogs and turned them loose in the backyard.
By nightfall on November 14, the weather had turned cold and rainy. The
Sanchez family rented three videos and went inside for a dinner of hot soup and a
movie marathon. Some family members watched the movies; others fell asleep.
Most of the children were put to bed.
Sometime after 11:00 p.m., defendant called the Sanchez house; Laura’s
sister Tracey answered the phone. Defendant said he needed to talk to a friend and
wanted Tracey to come over. She refused. Defendant asked to speak to Eddie, but
Tracey told him Eddie was asleep and then hung up the phone.
Around midnight, Clarence Redoble returned to defendant’s house and
found him standing outside in the rain. Defendant said he had locked himself out
of the house. It was cold, and Redoble had tucked his hands into his jacket
pockets, but defendant asked Redoble to take his hands out of his pockets, which
made Redoble think defendant was “tripping.” Redoble checked the doors and
windows to see if there was any way to get into the locked house. Finally, he
suggested breaking a small window in the side door, which he could easily repair
the next day. Defendant rejected that idea. He wanted to go to Eddie’s house to
call a locksmith. Redoble thought it was too late to disturb the neighbors, so he
offered to go to his own house to call a locksmith. Defendant was adamant. As an
alternative, Redoble offered to go next door alone and ask the Sanchezes to call a
locksmith so that defendant, who used crutches, would not have to negotiate the
path on his crutches in the rain. Defendant stubbornly followed Redoble to
Sanchez’s door.
Eddie answered Clarence Redoble’s knock and invited him and defendant
inside. Defendant refused to sit down and remained standing just inside the door,
resting on his crutches, while Eddie looked up locksmiths in the phonebook and
made a couple of calls.
Defendant’s behavior was unusual. According to witnesses, he was
mumbling to himself, pointing to different people, saying, “Oh, there’s one . . . by
the window. Oh, [that]’s her.” Clarence Redoble wanted to leave, but defendant
resisted. He asked to go to the backyard to see Eddie’s dogs. Eddie refused,
explaining it was cold and raining outside and defendant was on crutches.
Defendant then started to get aggressive, demanding to see the backyard. Eddie
sought to soothe defendant’s agitation, telling him, “No one’s gonna hurt you
At some point during this exchange, Eddie went into the kitchen and put a
barbecue fork in his back pocket. Eddie’s brother John saw him do so and
expressed concern. Eddie said: “Everything’s okay. Don’t worry about it.”
Defendant was wearing a jacket, and he kept putting his hand in the jacket pocket,
which had a noticeable bulge.
The front door had been opened and cold air was seeping into the house.
Eddie asked defendant to leave, telling him the baby would get sick because of the
cold air coming in through the open door. Defendant refused, saying, “No, I don’t
wanna go.” He seemed to get upset, and he asked Eddie, “Are you packing?”
Eddie answered, “No, what do I need a gun for?” and then asked, “Why? Does he
have a gun?” Eddie was standing next to defendant. He patted or frisked
defendant’s jacket and then stepped back a little. Eddie had nothing in his hands.
He never touched the fork in his back pocket. Defendant pulled the pistol from his
jacket and fired several shots at Eddie. Clarence Redoble was holding defendant’s
arm, and when he tried to pull defendant away, defendant turned the gun toward
Redoble and fired a shot that grazed Redoble’s hip.
Eddie was flung backward by the blast. His body was sprawled on the
dining room floor. One of the Black Talon hollow-point bullets, with which
defendant had loaded the gun, had lacerated two major blood vessels in Eddie’s
lower abdomen. After the shooting, Eddie’s brother Anthony was the first person
to reach defendant, who was standing right outside the door, the gun still in his
hand. Defendant turned the gun toward Anthony, but Anthony launched himself
at defendant, grabbed his gun hand, and bashed him in the face. Defendant
dropped his crutch, and Anthony picked it up and beat defendant until the crutch
broke. Anthony thought defendant was trying to get the gun, which had fallen to
the ground during the struggle, but John got to it first. John picked the gun up,
placed the barrel against defendant’s head, but he did not pull the trigger. He took
the gun inside the house and placed it on the dining room table.
A patrol officer heard the gunshots and arrived at the scene within two
minutes. He found defendant sitting in the middle of the lawn, bloodied but
conscious. The paramedics arrived and transported Eddie to the hospital, where he
Officers who searched defendant’s house after the shooting found more
guns and ammunition. They also found a note, written on an old parking ticket,
that said, “It might not be Ed, but Jay.”
B. The Defense Case
As a result of the struggle that followed the shooting, defendant suffered a
possible concussion, a fractured right wrist, an abraded and crushed little finger,
and metacarpal fractures of his left hand. His toxicological screen was positive for
amphetamines, benzodiazepines, and opiates. Defendant also had a number of
serious preexisting medical problems. He suffered from osteoarthritis and high
blood pressure. A broken leg had healed improperly and had required corrective
surgery in September 1999. Defendant had to use crutches until his leg healed and
had prescriptions for his various ailments, including painkillers. He supplemented
his Social Security disability income by selling drugs.
The jury learned more background information about defendant through the
testimony of Dr. Charles Schaffer, a psychiatrist who testified concerning
defendant’s mental condition. In 1998, defendant was the victim of an aggressive
home invasion robbery. Evidence suggested that a family member—perhaps
defendant’s niece, Corina Fajardo—and other people with whom defendant was
acquainted were involved in the robbery. The intruders tied defendant up, gagged
him, and beat him, taking money, drugs, and jewelry.
After the robbery, defendant’s friends, neighbors, and relatives noticed that
his behavior became increasingly bizarre. He seemed more paranoid, nervous, and
vulnerable. Cindy Fajardo, defendant’s half sister, lived with him for a time, but
moved out when defendant accused her of being part of a conspiracy against him.
Defendant’s leg injury also seemed to increase his paranoia. Defendant went
through a complete personality change; he was “tripping . . . thinking the wrong
thoughts.” Defendant said his cat was acting strangely because it could hear
people tunneling under the house. Defendant also believed people were trying to
break into his house through the attic and were planting microphones. Defendant
inquired from a salesperson named Pete Cabanyon about installing a home
security system. One neighbor, Joaquin Miranda, saw defendant wearing a
headset that defendant claimed could detect people in the backyard and the attic.
The day before the shooting, Miranda heard defendant calling for help. Defendant
said that he had been shot, but when Miranda examined him, he found no injuries.
Defendant made repeated 911 calls. He told officers that “someone was
trying to put a satellite dish on top of his house so they could beam rays down
from space and take over his body.” The day before the shooting, he claimed he
heard gunshots in the attic, but responding officers found nothing.
Defendant’s paranoia often focused on Eddie Sanchez and sometimes on
one of Eddie’s coworkers, Jay Moffit. He accused Jay and Eddie of stealing from
him. He thought there was a “Hispanic conspiracy against him” and that Eddie
was “running it.” He told people the harassment from Eddie was getting out of
Prior to the shooting, defendant reported he had been “snorting a couple of
lines” of methamphetamine every day for at least six months.
Dr. Charles Schaffer personally interviewed defendant, and reviewed
statements of friends, relatives, and neighbors, as well as records from the county
jail and reports of other mental health professionals, and concluded that at the time
of the shooting defendant was suffering from an “amphetamine induced psychotic
disorder, with delusions.” Dr. Schaffer noted that psychotic symptoms “can
include delusions [or] thoughts that are out of touch with reality . . . perceiving
things that don’t exist . . . seeing things that are not based on any real object . . . .”
Defendant denied experiencing any psychotic symptoms at the time of the
interview with Dr. Schaffer. He claimed he could remember only bits and pieces
of the confrontation with Eddie. He recalled clearly why he went to the Sanchez
house. He needed a locksmith, and his auto club card was locked inside the house.
He remembered asking Eddie about a weapon and recalled nothing else until he
woke up in the University of California hospital.
Although Dr. Schaffer discounted defendant’s claim of amnesia, he
believed that his diagnosis of psychotic disorder with delusions was sound, based
in part on the stories related to him by defendant’s relatives and neighbors. He
rejected—as highly improbable—the possibility that defendant was malingering.
He also opined, in support of defendant’s claim of imperfect self-defense, that a
person suffering from defendant’s symptoms would have a heightened sensitivity
to threat, especially when crowded by other people.
Defense counsel sought to have all of the witnesses on whose statements
Dr. Schaffer relied, including Joaquin Miranda, Pete Cabanyon, and Cindy
Fajardo, testify during the trial. The court sustained the prosecution’s objection
that this evidence would be cumulative, but left open the possibility the defense
could present these witnesses if Dr. Schaffer failed to recall what they said.
The jury found defendant guilty of the second degree murder of Eddie
Sanchez (Pen. Code, § 187, subd. (a))1 and the assault of Clarence Redoble (§ 245,
subd. (a)(2)). As to the murder charge, the jury found true an allegation that
defendant personally used a firearm in violation of section 12022.53, subdivision
(d). As to the assault charge, the jury found true an allegation that defendant used
a firearm within the meaning of section 1203.06, subdivisions (a)(1), and section
12022.5, former subdivision (a)(1) (now subd. (a)). In a separate sanity phase of
the trial, the jury found defendant was legally sane during the commission of the
On appeal, defendant argued, among other things, that the trial court erred
when it excluded testimony from the witnesses on whose statements Dr. Schaffer
had relied in reaching his conclusions. The Court of Appeal found trial court error
and reversed the judgment. The court reasoned that this testimony was crucial to
substantiating defendant’s assertion of imperfect self-defense, and its exclusion
prejudicially violated defendant’s state and federal due process rights. We granted

All statutory references are to the Penal Code unless otherwise indicated.

The People assert that a claim of imperfect self-defense must be based on
objective circumstances indicating a threat, not on mere delusions or
hallucinations arising from voluntary intoxication. The People argue that the
evidence in this case does not support imperfect self-defense because the only
arguably threatening objective circumstances that preceded defendant’s violent
outburst were the barbeque fork in Eddie Sanchez’s back pocket and the fact that
Eddie patted or frisked defendant’s jacket. According to the People, these
circumstances were not sufficient to support the claim of imperfect self-defense.
We need not reach that issue, however. Assuming without deciding that imperfect
self-defense applies here, we see no prejudice to defendant in the trial court’s
ruling that excluded the testimony of his witnesses.
The jury was instructed on the doctrine of imperfect self-defense, and
defense counsel was permitted to argue this theory. Moreover, evidentiary support
for defendant’s imperfect self-defense claim was provided by the testimony of
prosecution witnesses Clarence Redoble and Anthony Sanchez, as well as defense
expert Dr. Schaffer. Redoble, for example, described in detail defendant’s
paranoid behavior prior to the shooting, including his belief that he was the target
of a possible attack and that people were trying to enter his house. The Court of
Appeal reversed solely because the trial court excluded as cumulative the
testimony of other witnesses who would have recounted additional incidents
reflecting defendant’s precarious mental state in the days, weeks, and months
preceding the shooting. According to the defense offer of proof, these witnesses
would have testified to the circumstances of the home-invasion robbery, how
defendant’s behavior deteriorated after the robbery, what defendant told police
officers who responded to his 911 calls, and how defendant was acting on the day
before the shooting.
The substance of this excluded testimony was, however, admitted through
Dr. Schaffer, the defense expert who relied on statements from these various
witnesses in forming his opinion about defendant’s mental state and who
described these statements to the jury. The trial court admitted his descriptions
without a limiting instruction, and defense counsel elicited details from
Dr. Schaffer without a single objection from the prosecution. In addition, the trial
court, as already noted, permitted the defense to renew its request to present these
witnesses if Dr. Schaffer’s testimony was inadequate, and defense counsel chose
not to do so, suggesting satisfaction with Dr. Schaffer’s testimony.
Thus, the jury heard Dr. Schaffer recount the statement of defendant’s uncle
that after the home-invasion robbery defendant “became very vulnerable” and was
concerned that someone was trying to burglarize his house, that defendant also
believed someone was surveilling the house and monitoring his conversations with
hidden microphones, and that, on the day before the shooting, defendant was
“really strange,” “agitated and disturbed,” “shaking,” and “looking bad,” and made
his uncle afraid. Dr. Schaffer also recounted the statement of the uncle’s grandson
that, on the day before the shooting, defendant was “acting weird” and “talking
about strange things,” such as people entering his home and planting microphones,
hearing voices in the attic, seeing people crawling underneath the house, and cars
chasing him. Dr. Schaffer further recounted the statement of defendant’s half
sister who lived with defendant for several months. She reported that defendant
became “very afraid right after his home invasion robbery,” that he repeatedly
woke her up in the middle of the night because he believed someone was in the
house, that he believed someone had “bugged” the house and was out to “get”
him, that he had accused her of being part of a conspiracy against him, and that
she believed his leg injury had exacerbated his paranoia. In addition, Dr. Schaffer
recounted the statement of the home security system salesperson who visited
defendant in September or October 1999 and reported that defendant was terrified
and shaking and believed people had “bugged” his house, were trying to enter the
house, and were “out to get him.” Dr. Schaffer also recounted the statement of the
neighbor who reported that defendant became increasingly paranoid about six
months before the shooting, claimed people were stealing from him and trying to
kill him, asserted that his headset could detect intruders, and falsely declared on
the day before the shooting that he had been shot in the back. Finally, Dr.
Schaffer described the 911 call on the day before the shooting, in which defendant
claimed that there were intruders in the house, that he had heard gunshots in the
attic and the crawlspace under the house, and that someone was trying to install a
satellite dish on his roof. Dr. Schaffer described the conclusion of the police
officer who responded to the call and found no basis for defendant’s concerns. In
short, through Dr. Schaffer’s testimony, the jury heard the substance of what all
these witnesses had to say. We certainly do not condone the use of hearsay to
present a case to the jury, but the primary consequence of the trial court’s ruling
excluding the testimony of these several witnesses was that the jury did not see the
witnesses testify live.
The Court of Appeal found the trial court’s ruling prejudicial error. In the
court’s words, “this is the rare case in which the trial court abused its discretion,”
because defendant’s mental state “was the lynchpin of his defense,” and the
excluded testimony “was crucial to the defense’s position that defendant’s
delusional mental state was not falsely fabricated after he committed the crime.”
Under these circumstances, the Court of Appeal reasoned, defendant was deprived
of his state and federal constitutional rights to due process of law.
The Court of Appeal’s analysis cannot withstand scrutiny. Not only did the
jury learn the substance of the excluded testimony, but the People never
challenged the accuracy of the witnesses’ statements or Dr. Schaffer’s description
of those statements, and therefore the credibility of these witnesses was simply not
a central issue. In fact, after the defense made its offer of proof regarding these
witnesses, the district attorney explained to the court: “I am not contesting that the
statements he read are true. I mean, if the witnesses come in, I wouldn’t intend on
suggesting in any way that they are making this stuff up.” Moreover, in closing
argument to the jury, the district attorney referred to Dr. Schaffer’s testimony and
said: “[I]f the psychotic disorder is true that the psychiatrist was telling you about,
that he actually has some real delusions, and it sounds like that’s true. [¶] He’s
having some real delusions the week before and up to this very day. These real
delusions probably have an impact on him, right? That’s no problem with that.
Everybody can buy that. I think we can all be on the same page that this is going
on . . . .” (Italics added.) The district attorney’s strategy, in other words, was to
concede the existence of defendant’s mental problems but argue there was no
evidence that defendant actually believed an imminent peril necessitated the use of
deadly force at the moment the shooting occurred. (See Christian S., supra, 7
Cal.4th at p. 783.) As the district attorney put it: “These are issues that show that
he has moments certainly of lucidity and clarity. [¶] And when he’s over there at
the house we don’t know what happened for sure. We don’t know what’s in his
head. [¶] . . . [¶] Where’s the evidence? Where’s the evidence in his head that at
that moment he said, oh, my gosh, I know I have an [actual] unreasonable belief in
the need to defend myself against this imminent peril right now. I’ve got to do it,
boom. [¶] You know what, there’s no evidence of that.” Thus, defendant’s actual
belief at the time of the shooting was the critical issue in the case, not the general
existence of his abnormal mental condition, and testimony of live witnesses who
would have described defendant’s general state of mind at various times prior to
the shooting would not have affected the jury’s assessment of that critical issue in
any way, because (1) the jury learned the substance of this testimony through Dr.
Schaffer, and (2) the prosecution conceded the truth of the statements recounted
by Dr. Schaffer, as well as Dr. Schaffer’s diagnosis of psychotic delusions.
The Court of Appeal, relying in part on Crane v. Kentucky (1986) 476 U.S.
683, concluded that exclusion of this testimony was so serious an error that it
violated defendant’s right to a fair trial under the federal Constitution, and
defendant, also relying on Crane, argues that the trial court’s ruling prevented the
jury from assessing the credibility of his defense. In Crane, the credibility of the
defendant’s confession was the central issue in the case, and the high court held
that the trial court in that case erred in excluding evidence related to the
circumstances of the confession, because that evidence bore on the question of
credibility. (Id. at pp. 690-691.) Here, on the other hand, the People did not
contest the accuracy of Dr. Schaffer’s hearsay account of defendant’s delusional
behavior, and in fact the People conceded that defendant was having the delusions
that the excluded witnesses would have described. Therefore, contrary to
defendant’s assertion, the exclusion of their testimony did not impact the
credibility of his defense as directly as the exclusion of evidence that was at issue
in Crane.
Because the circumstances at the time of the shooting only weakly support
the conclusion that defendant was acting at that time under a delusional belief that
he was under attack (cf. People v. Viramontes (2001) 93 Cal.App.4th 1256, 1263),
the evidence of other paranoid delusions prior to the shooting was of some
importance—but the jury heard about this paranoid and delusional behavior from
defendant’s friend Clarence Redoble. The trial court’s decision to bar additional
testimony to the same effect (but to allow Dr. Schaffer to describe the substance of
this excluded evidence) arguably did not violate Evidence Code section 352, but
we need not decide the question. Even if we assume the trial court erred, and if
we assume the error was so grave as to implicate defendant’s federal due process
rights, the exclusion of this evidence was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.
(Chapman v. California (1967) 386 U.S. 18, 24.)
Assuming that the trial court erred in its evidentiary ruling, we find that
error to be harmless. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the Court of
Appeal and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.



A series of flawed decisions and patchwork legislative solutions has left the
law governing homicide in California confusing and in some cases anomalous.
For the reasons stated in my majority opinion, ante, we cannot decide the issue we
had intended to decide in this case, but considering the impenetrable labyrinth that
California’s homicide law has become, perhaps the Legislature is better situated to
provide the answer than we are. I write this concurrence to describe how we got
ourselves into this labyrinth and to suggest the way out.
Much of the confusion is traceable to our efforts to define malice
aforethought. “California statutes have long separated criminal homicide into two
classes, the greater offense of murder and the lesser included offense of
manslaughter. The distinguishing feature is that murder includes, but
manslaughter lacks, the element of malice.” (People v. Rios (2000) 23 Cal.4th
450, 460 (Rios).) But what exactly is malice in this context? The plain text of
Penal Code section 1881 seems to suggest that intent unlawfully to kill by itself
establishes malice: Malice “is express when there is manifested a deliberate
intention unlawfully to take away the life of a fellow creature.” Voluntary
manslaughter (§ 192, subd. (a)), however, requires proof of “purpose and design,”
as opposed to mere “accident,” and therefore the element of malice that
differentiates murder from manslaughter must be something more than simple
intent. (See People v. Conley (1966) 64 Cal.2d 310, 321 (Conley), quoting People
v. Gorshen (1959) 51 Cal.2d 716, 730, fn. 11 (Gorshen), italics omitted.) What is
that “something more”?

All further statutory references are to the Penal Code.

We have construed the statutory definition of malice in a series of cases
considering the relevance of a defendant’s abnormal mental condition in the
context of a homicide prosecution. Gorshen, supra, 51 Cal.2d 716, for example,
involved what appeared on its face to be a deliberate and premeditated murder.
The defendant, a longshoreman, drank enough gin during the course of his work
shift to become intoxicated. His foreman confronted him, told him to go home,
and the two began to fight. In the course of this brawl, the defendant suffered a
cut below his eye, requiring several stitches. (Id. at p. 720.) When the defendant
returned to work the same night, he was told to go home. He asserted that he
would do so, but that he would return with his gun and kill the foreman. (Ibid.)
He then went home, fired his gun once, returned, and shot the foreman in the
stomach. (Id. at pp. 720-721.) At his trial, the defendant presented evidence that
he suffered from a form of schizophrenia that caused him to have sexual
hallucinations. (Id. at p. 722.) Recent anxiety over sexual dysfunction had
exacerbated these hallucinations, and his self-esteem was, as a result, tied closely
to “his ability in his work.” The defense expert, a psychiatrist, testified that, on
the night of the shooting, the defendant’s mental condition caused him to perceive
the foreman’s instruction to go home as the equivalent of: “ ‘You’re not a man,
you’re impotent, . . . you’re a sexual pervert.’ ” (Ibid.) The psychiatrist explained
that the defendant was at that moment on the verge of complete loss of sanity, and
his mind compensated for the crisis by clinging obsessively to the thought of
killing the foreman. The shooting then resolved that mental crisis. (Ibid.)
The trial court found the defendant guilty of second degree murder.
(Gorshen, supra, 51 Cal.2d at p. 719.) In affirming the conviction, we held that
the psychiatrist’s testimony was proper evidence because it was relevant to
whether the defendant had acted with the requisite specific intent. (Id. at pp. 726-
727.) We also considered whether an “abnormal mental . . . condition (whether
caused by intoxication, by trauma, or by disease, but not amounting to legal
insanity or unconsciousness)” could negate malice, reducing murder to
manslaughter. (Id. at p. 731.) We concluded that it could, disapproving a long
line of cases that suggested otherwise. We reasoned that malice was, in this
regard, a mental state like any other, and a defendant’s abnormal mental condition
was relevant to determining the presence of that mental state. (Id. at pp. 731-733.)
In Conley, supra, 64 Cal.2d 310, we again considered the relevance of
intoxication evidence in a homicide prosecution. The defendant in Conley had
been romantically involved with Elaine McCool until she reconciled with her
husband, Clifton McCool. (Id. at pp. 314-315.) After a multiday drinking binge,
the defendant purchased a rifle and tested it. (Id. at p. 315.) He told friends he
wanted to kill the McCools, but his friends dismissed the threat because he was
intoxicated. (Ibid.) He continued to drink. He next went to the group of cabins
where the McCools lived and visited other friends. (Ibid.) He repeated that he
wanted to kill the McCools and then left his friends’ cabin. A few minutes later,
four shots rang out. Witnesses saw the defendant shoot Elaine McCool as she was
running from him. (Ibid.) A jury convicted the defendant of the first degree
murders of both Elaine and Clifton McCool (id. at p. 314), but we reversed the
convictions because the trial court had failed to give the jury instructions on
manslaughter, and also failed to define malice and explain that malice is an
essential element of murder. (Id. at pp. 319-320.)
In our opinion, we reaffirmed the principle stated in Gorshen that a
defendant’s mental condition (including intoxication) at the time of a homicide is
relevant to the issue of malice aforethought (Conley, supra, 64 Cal.2d at pp. 317-
318), but then we went a step further. The Attorney General argued that the first
degree murder convictions necessarily included a finding of deliberation and
premeditation and that the jury had therefore found malice. (Id. at p. 320.) We
disagreed, and in so doing we had to define malice in a way that distinguished it
from intent. In other words, we had to carve out a class of murders that might
somehow be deliberate and premeditated but not malicious. (Id. at pp. 320-323.)
In that context, we divined an awareness-of-civic-duty component of malice
aforethought, stating: “An awareness of the obligation to act within the general
body of laws regulating society . . . is included in the statutory definition of . . .
malice . . . .” (Id. at p. 322.) By adding that gloss to the definition, malice
aforethought became something clearly distinct from intent, and under this new
definition, a defendant’s “diminished capacity” (id. at p. 318) due to intoxication
or other mental condition might leave him unaware of his duty to act lawfully but
still able to act with intent, deliberation, and premeditation. (Id. at p. 323.) We
specifically cited Gorshen as an example of a fact scenario in which one might act
with deliberation and premeditation—declaring an intent to kill, going home, test-
firing a gun, returning, and killing—but not with malice, because one was not able
to appreciate one’s duty to act within the law. (Conley, supra, 64 Cal.2d at pp.
Moreover, this same revised definition of malice justified the need for
manslaughter instructions. If malice aforethought were closely tied to intent, then
any factual defense that might disprove malice would also tend to disprove intent,
making a voluntary manslaughter conviction inappropriate and voluntary
manslaughter instructions unnecessary. But, by defining malice in a way that
sharply distinguished it from intent, we created the possibility that the evidence
might disprove malice but nevertheless establish an intentional unlawful killing,
making a voluntary manslaughter conviction appropriate. In short, by an accretion
upon the statutory definition of malice, we were able to create an element of
murder that could be disproved by diminished capacity evidence without
simultaneously disproving intent to kill. This accretion, therefore, provided the
logical basis by which diminished capacity might reduce murder to voluntary
Various 1981 amendments to the Penal Code were expressly intended to
eliminate the diminished capacity defense. (See In re Christian S. (1994) 7
Cal.4th 768, 774-775, 781-782 (Christian S.).) Thus, the Legislature announced:
“As a matter of public policy there shall be no defense of diminished capacity . . .
in a criminal action . . . .” (§ 28, subd. (b).) The electorate passed a
complementary initiative in 1982 that provided in part: “The defense of
diminished capacity is hereby abolished.” (§ 25, subd. (a).) Nevertheless, as long
as a specific state of mind is a necessary element of an offense, a defendant cannot
be prohibited from presenting relevant evidence raising a doubt about whether that
state of mind was present. Therefore, the 1981 amendments did not preclude the
defense of “diminished actuality”—that nonsensical phrase being judicial
shorthand for the actual lack of a requisite mental state, due to an abnormal mental
condition. (See, e.g., People v. Steele (2002) 27 Cal.4th 1230, 1253, italics
omitted (Steele).) Hence, even after the 1981 amendments, intoxication evidence
could still produce an acquittal in a murder prosecution. A key component,
however, of the diminished capacity defense had been that it offered jurors the
middle option of a voluntary manslaughter conviction rather than the stark choice
between a murder conviction and a complete acquittal. To eliminate that middle
option, the 1981 amendments rejected the awareness-of-civic-duty gloss we had
put on the definition of malice aforethought. As amended, section 188 now
provides: “Neither an awareness of the obligation to act within the general body
of laws regulating society nor acting despite such awareness is included within the
definition of malice.”
As a result of this statutory change, a defendant who announced his intent
to kill, and then took methodical steps to do so, could not pursue the compromise
verdict of voluntary manslaughter on the theory that intoxication or other mental
condition had clouded his awareness of his duty to act within the law. That, in any
case, was our holding in People v. Saille (1991) 54 Cal.3d 1103. In Saille, the
defendant argued that, because the 1981 amendments did not eliminate diminished
actuality, intoxication evidence could still negate malice and reduce murder to
voluntary manslaughter. (Id. at pp. 1112-1113.) We rejected the argument, citing
the change to section 188 and concluding that the elimination of the diminished
capacity defense effectively eliminated the middle option of voluntary
manslaughter in a diminished actuality case. (Id. at pp. 1113-1117.) In the course
of our opinion, we repeatedly linked malice to intent. We said: “[O]nce the trier
of fact finds a deliberate intention unlawfully to kill, no other mental state need be
shown to establish malice aforethought.” (Id. at p. 1113, italics added.) We added
that “express malice and an intent unlawfully to kill are one and the same” (id. at
p. 1114), and we twice said that, “when an intentional killing is shown, malice
aforethought is established” (ibid.). Finally, we concluded that, “[i]n amending
section 188 in 1981, the Legislature equated express malice with an intent
unlawfully to kill.” (Id. at p. 1116.) By closely linking malice to intent, our
holding in Saille tended to blur the distinction between voluntary manslaughter
and second degree murder, seemingly limiting voluntary manslaughter to the
statutorily defined instance of “a sudden quarrel or heat of passion.” (§ 192, subd.
(a).) For simplicity’s sake, I will refer to this statutorily defined category of
voluntary manslaughter as “heat-of-passion manslaughter.”
Imperfect self-defense was originally a subcategory of heat-of-passion
manslaughter, not a distinct doctrine. In fact, at one time we felt the need to
clarify that heat-of-passion manslaughter could encompass factual scenarios other
than imperfect self-defense. (People v. Logan (1917) 175 Cal. 45, 49-50
(Logan).) Similarly, in People v. Best (1936) 13 Cal.App.2d 606 (Best), the Court
of Appeal treated imperfect self-defense as a specific type of heat-of-passion
manslaughter. Discussing imperfect self-defense, the court stated: “ ‘The
dividing line between self-defense and this character of manslaughter seems to be
the existence, as the moving force, of a reasonable founded belief of imminent
peril to life or great bodily harm[, leading to an acquittal based on self-defense], as
distinguished from the influence of an uncontrollable fear or terror, conceivable as
existing, but not reasonably justified by the immediate circumstances[, leading to a
manslaughter conviction].’ ” (Id. at p. 610, quoting Commonwealth v. Colandro
(Pa. 1911) 80 A. 571, 574.) Thus, according to the traditional view, imperfect
self-defense, like other forms of heat-of-passion manslaughter, involved a killing
committed in a state of passion, but the passion at issue was not rage or intense
jealousy; rather, the killer believed (in the passion of the moment) that he had to
use deadly force to repel an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury. The
Best court noted, however, the long-standing rule that “adequate provocation”
must underlie the defendant’s heat of passion for it to support a reduction of
murder to manslaughter. (Best, at p. 610, citing People v. Freel (1874) 48 Cal.
436, 437.) In a case where there was “no considerable provocation,” and the
elements of murder were otherwise satisfied, malice was implied, and a murder
conviction was appropriate. (§ 188.) In addition, the Best court made clear that,
in the case of imperfect self-defense, the fear of death or great bodily injury,
though unreasonable, must nevertheless be “caused by the circumstances.” (Best,
at p. 610.) This language tends to ground imperfect self-defense in some objective
circumstance that the defendant could conceivably interpret as threatening. Thus,
it was not the absence of objective circumstances, but the unreasonable response
to those circumstances—a miscalibration—that characterized imperfect self-
In short, the Court of Appeal, in Best, supra, 13 Cal.App.2d 606, expressly
endorsed a reasonably unreasonable standard for imperfect self-defense. (But see
People v. Uriarte (1990) 223 Cal.App.3d 192, 197 (Uriarte).) The “provocation”
or threatening “circumstances” must be adequate, but at the same time, the deadly
force exerted in response must be “ ‘not reasonably justified.’ ” (Id. at p. 610.) As
awkward as this reasonably unreasonable standard might seem on its face, it is
quite consistent with manslaughter as that crime has been historically understood.
Manslaughter is, of course, a class of criminal behavior, and therefore it
necessarily implies unreasonable conduct—that is, conduct falling short of the
minimum standards society imposes on its members—but we have nevertheless
always held that the heat of passion that justifies reducing murder to voluntary
manslaughter must be based on “circumstances . . . sufficient to arouse the
passions of the ordinarily reasonable man.” (Logan, supra, 175 Cal. at p. 49,
italics added.) Therefore, the intermediate, reasonably unreasonable standard has
always been an aspect of voluntary manslaughter—for manslaughter is, after all, a
middle option between murder and complete exculpation.
In People v. Flannel (1979) 25 Cal.3d 668 (Flannel), we approved the
reasoning of Best, expressly adopting imperfect self-defense as a category of
voluntary manslaughter (Flannel, at pp. 675-676), but we disconnected it from
heat-of-passion manslaughter (id. at pp. 677-678). We separated these doctrines
because imperfect self-defense by definition involves an unreasonable response to
the circumstances (for otherwise it would be true self-defense), whereas heat-of-
passion manslaughter requires a provocation that would arouse the passions of a
“ ‘reasonable person.’ ” (Id. at p. 678, italics added.) We believed these
standards to be mutually inconsistent. (Ibid.) We did not, however, recognize that
even in the case of heat-of-passion manslaughter (where the defendant’s passion
must, by definition, be reasonable), the defendant’s conduct is certainly
unreasonable in the sense that manslaughter constitutes a serious crime, not an
exculpation. Therefore, the reasonableness component of heat-of-passion
manslaughter has always managed to coexist with the recognition that we are
talking about a defendant who has acted unreasonably.
In short, unreasonable conduct has always been a component of heat-of-
passion manslaughter, as well as imperfect self-defense, and that element of
unreasonableness is perfectly consistent with a countervailing requirement of
some minimum objective measure of reasonableness. Therefore, in deciding
Flannel, we could have left imperfect self-defense linked to heat-of-passion
manslaughter but simply defined reasonableness in a way that was appropriate to
the specific facts under consideration. As we shall see, our decision instead to
conjure a nonstatutory category of voluntary manslaughter (see Flannel, supra,
25 Cal.3d at p. 677, fn. 3; Rios, supra, 23 Cal.4th at p. 465) has led to several

The Flannel decision rested in part on the same awareness-of-civic-duty
definition of malice that we had adopted in Conley. Specifically, we decided that
the state of mind associated with imperfect self-defense—that is, an actual belief
in “the need to repel imminent peril or bodily injury”—would necessarily render
one unaware “that society expects conformity to a different standard” and
therefore incapable “of comprehending [one’s] societal duty to act within the law.”
(Flannel, supra, 25 Cal.3d at p. 679.) Therefore, the 1981 amendments to the
Penal Code, eliminating the awareness-of-civic-duty component of malice, called
into question our holding in Flannel. Nevertheless, we concluded in Christian S.
that the history of the 1981 amendments did not suggest any intent to eliminate
imperfect self-defense as a basis for a manslaughter conviction, and we were loath
to assume that the Legislature had eliminated this legal theory by legislative
accident. Accordingly, we held that imperfect self-defense remained a viable
theory for negating malice and that, by negating malice, it did not also negate
intent, and therefore a voluntary manslaughter conviction remained possible.
(Christian S., supra, 7 Cal.4th at p. 771.) In reaching this conclusion, we
implicitly retreated from our repeated statements in Saille that equated malice
aforethought with intent unlawfully to kill, and that implicit retreat became
explicit in Rios, supra, 23 Cal.4th 450.
In Rios, supra, 23 Cal.4th 450, we held that voluntary manslaughter is a
lesser included offense of second degree murder. We reasoned that imperfect self-
defense and heat of passion are not elements of voluntary manslaughter, but rather
they are alternative means of raising a doubt about the element of malice in a
murder prosecution. Therefore, though “malice” and “intent to unlawfully kill”
are “[g]enerally” one and the same (id. at p. 460, italics added), malice is

narrower, implying intent combined with an absence of the factors that would
reduce the killing to manslaughter. (Id. at pp. 460-462, 469.)

As this history of our law makes clear, our cases construing heat-of-passion
manslaughter have always emphasized the necessity of reasonableness as regards
the defendant’s passionate reaction, because “no defendant may set up his own
standard of conduct and justify or excuse himself [simply] because in fact his
passions were aroused.” (Logan, supra, 175 Cal. at p. 49; see People v. Cole
(2004) 33 Cal.4th 1158, 1215-1216; People v. Gutierrez (2002) 28 Cal.4th 1083,
1143; Steele, supra, 27 Cal.4th at p. 1252; People v. Wickersham (1982) 32 Cal.3d
307, 326; People v. Berry (1976) 18 Cal.3d 509, 515; People v. Danielly (1949) 33
Cal.2d 362, 377; People v. Valentine (1946) 28 Cal.2d 121, 137.) But, in Flannel,
by disconnecting imperfect self-defense from heat-of-passion manslaughter, we
arguably disconnected it also from this long-standing reasonableness
requirement—and, if so, allowed defendants to set up their own standards of
conduct. In all imperfect self-defense cases, like all heat-of-passion manslaughter
cases, the defendant certainly acts unreasonably, but the defendant’s conduct
should still be measured against some minimum objective standard. Otherwise, a
hyperparanoid and delusional defendant would be a law unto himself,
hallucinating violent attacks and then killing innocent people with impunity as
regards a murder conviction. That result would fly in the face of 90 years of
precedent requiring that actions of a defendant seeking to negate malice exhibit
some objective reasonableness. It would also stand in sharp contrast to the rule
adopted in other jurisdictions as regards imperfect self-defense. (See, e.g., State v.
Ordway (Kan. 1997) 934 P.2d 94, 104 [“the ‘unreasonable but honest belief’
necessary to support the ‘imperfect right to self-defense manslaughter’ cannot be
based upon a psychotic delusion”]; Peterson v. State (Md.Ct.Spec.App. 1994) 643
A.2d 520, 522 [“we conclude that the imperfect self-defense instruction should not
be given unless the evidence generates the issue of whether, under the

circumstances, the defendant was entitled to take some action against the victim”];
State v. Powell (N.J. 1980) 419 A.2d 406, 410 [approving a claim of imperfect
self-defense “where the exercise of ‘self-defense’ was provoked by an act that
clouded the defendant’s perceptions as to the imminence of danger, the extent of
the danger, or the amount of force called for to eliminate the danger” (italics
added)]; Com. v. Bracey (Pa. 2001) 795 A.2d 935, 947 [although defendant
claimed that abuse as a child left him with an “ ‘exaggerated startle response,’ ”
“there was absolutely no evidence that [defendant] acted in self-defense—
imperfect or otherwise”]; Com. v. Sheppard (Pa.Super.Ct. 1994) 648 A.2d 563,
569 [imperfect self-defense “is more in the nature of perception based upon faulty
analysis of the circumstances, or state of mind arising from a pattern or history of
interaction, which would lead to a reaction based on fear of one’s safety arising
out of previous abuse”]; id. at p. 570 [“[t]he appellant’s alleged subjective
cognitive process under case law is not a factor for consideration unless and until
the objective determination has been made . . . that a basis exists for such a
perception”]; State v. Seifert (Wis. 1990) 454 N.W.2d 346, 352 [“The doctrine of
imperfect self-defense manslaughter was simply never intended to cover situations
such as this one where it is entirely the defendant’s mental disease or defect, not
an error in judgment or perception or a negligently-formed perspective of the
situation, that motivates the defendant’s actions”]; cf. State v. Head (Wis. 2002)
648 N.W.2d 413, 436-437.)
Of course, imperfect self-defense is a “judicially developed theory” (Rios,
supra, 23 Cal.4th at p. 465), and therefore, as the creators of this theory, we could
judicially ensure a requirement of reasonable objective circumstances, thereby
making this category of manslaughter consistent with our long-standing rule that a
defendant should not be able to set up his own standard of conduct. In fact, the
requirement announced in Best, supra, 13 Cal.App.2d at page 610, and reiterated
in our cases (see Christian S., supra, 7 Cal.4th at p. 776; Flannel, supra, 25 Cal.3d
at p. 676), that the defendant’s fear must be “caused by the circumstances”
indicates that, since its inception, imperfect self-defense has required a showing of
some objective circumstances that the defendant could conceivably interpret as a
threat. The problem, however, is that we are not dealing with the common law,
but rather construing a criminal statute, and we cannot simply make new law,
though that is precisely what we did in Flannel by creating a category of
manslaughter that “is not expressed in the statutory scheme at all.” (Rios, at
p. 465.) In short, we are confined by the statutory scheme, though by
disconnecting imperfect self-defense from heat-of-passion manslaughter, we broke
out of the statutory scheme into uncharted territory.
For example, one can argue that, because the element of malice refers to a
subjective state of mind, the defendant’s actual belief—reasonable or wholly
delusional—is the only relevant consideration as regards proof of malice in a
murder prosecution. In other words, the reasonableness of a defendant’s belief in
the need for self-defense is of no consequence; so long as the unreasonable
defendant actually, in fact, had that belief, he had the same subjective mental state
as one whose belief was reasonable, and he did not act with malice or commit
murder. (See, e.g., People v. Wells (1949) 33 Cal.2d 330, 344-345; Uriarte,
supra, 223 Cal.App.3d at p. 197.) The anomaly in this reasoning is that, in the
case of heat-of-passion manslaughter, we have always required some objective
reasonableness, though the act of manslaughter is inherently unreasonable. A
person who unreasonably and delusionally reacts to a minor provocation may
have the same subjective mental state as a person who reasonably and accurately
reacts to a major provocation, but in the case of heat-of-passion manslaughter, the
law imputes malice (regardless of the defendant’s actual mental state) “when no
considerable provocation appears.” (§ 188; cf. People v. Padilla (2002) 103
Cal.App.4th 675, 678-679.) Thus, the defendant’s actual subjective mental state
is, at least to that extent, deemed to be irrelevant, and a murder conviction is
appropriate. With respect to imperfect self-defense, however, we are dealing with
a judicially created gloss on the voluntary manslaughter statute, and therefore the
statutory basis for imputing malice to a defendant who acts in response to a very
minor or wholly nonexistent threat is uncertain. We can cite as a limitation on
imperfect self-defense the long-standing objective requirement that it be “caused
by the circumstances” (Best, supra, 13 Cal.App.2d at p. 610; see Christian S.,
supra, 7 Cal.4th at p. 776; Flannel, supra, 25 Cal.3d at p. 676), but doing so does
not necessarily solve the problem of how, without a statutory provision, we can
fictionally impute malice where there is no actual malice in the defendant’s
delusional inner world.2
A further complication arises when voluntary intoxication is the source of
the defendant’s unreasonable response to a very minor or wholly nonexistent
threat. If the defendant in such a case were to claim heat-of-passion manslaughter,
malice would be implied on account of the insufficiency of the provocation
(§ 188), and of course evidence of voluntary intoxication is, by statute,
inadmissible on the question of implied malice (§ 22, subd (b)). Therefore, the
intoxication evidence would be excluded, and the defendant would be guilty of
murder. If, on the other hand, the defendant claimed imperfect self-defense, the
same intoxication-produced delusions would arguably negate malice and reduce
murder to manslaughter. This anomaly is illogical in itself, and it has the further
mischief of frustrating the Legislature’s clear intent to eliminate the diminished
capacity defense. If imperfect self-defense may be based on intoxication-
produced delusions, then a defendant can still use diminished capacity evidence to
obtain a compromise verdict of manslaughter, simply by asserting that his
intoxication (or other abnormal mental condition) caused him to believe he was
facing an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury.

If we were to hold that imperfect self-defense is unavailable to a delusional
defendant who cannot identify sufficient provocation, that defendant would not be
without a remedy. The defendant would be able to invoke the defense of
unconsciousness (§ 26) or insanity (§ 25, subd. (b)), if applicable.

Finally, our law should recognize that intoxication can affect a person in
two opposing ways. It can cause a person not to perceive a risk that is real, as is
common in the case of alcohol abuse (see, e.g., People v. Whitfield (1994) 7
Cal.4th 437, 442-444), and it can cause a person to perceive a risk that is not real,
as is common in the case of cocaine or methamphetamine abuse. The Legislature
has made clear that, in the former situation, a defendant may be convicted of
second degree murder on an implied malice theory, and the evidence of voluntary
intoxication is not admissible. (§ 22, subd. (b).)3 Logic suggests that a similar
rule should apply when voluntary intoxication causes the opposite effect. One
who voluntarily takes a drug that causes hallucinations of an imminent peril
should not be able to kill innocent people and then claim intoxication as a defense
to a murder charge. The point we made long ago in a different context remains
pertinent here: “ ‘In the forum of conscience, there is no doubt considerable
difference between a murder deliberately planned and executed by a person of
unclouded intellect, and the reckless taking of life by one infuriated by
intoxication; but human laws are based upon considerations of policy, and look
rather to the maintenance of personal security and social order, than to an accurate
discrimination as to the moral qualities of individual conduct.’ ” (People v. Blake
(1884) 65 Cal. 275, 277, quoting The People v. Rogers (1858) 18 N.Y. 9, 18.)

As must be apparent, all these various problems and anomalies arise from
our misstep in 1979 in Flannel, when we waved our judicial magic wand and

Voluntary intoxication is, however, admissible on the question of express
malice. (§ 22, subd. (b).) Under current law, then, an intoxicated defendant who
kills while driving with a conscious disregard for human life may not rely on
evidence of intoxication to rebut implied malice, but the same defendant who
intends to kill unlawfully may rely on such evidence to rebut express malice. I
note that nothing in the Constitution compels this anomaly. (Montana v. Egelhoff
(1996) 518 U.S. 37, 56 (plur. opn. of Scalia, J.); id. at pp. 58-59 (conc. opn. of
Ginsburg, J.).)

created a new nonstatutory category of manslaughter rather than keeping imperfect
self-defense linked to heat-of-passion manslaughter. Having created it from thin
air, we are now stuck with the unpleasant reality that what we created does not fit
the statutory scheme the Legislature crafted. The only sensible solution, then,
would be to correct the error we made over a quarter century ago and once again
locate imperfect self-defense within the statutory category of heat-of-passion
manslaughter. The Legislature could easily correct our 1979 misstep by providing
clear definitions of malice and imperfect self-defense, and I urge the Legislature to
do so, thereby restoring coherence and common sense to California’s homicide
law. Of course, if no legislative fix is forthcoming, we will continue to do our best
to see our way through this forest of anomalies.



See next page for addresses and telephone numbers for counsel who argued in Supreme Court.

Name of Opinion People v. Wright

Unpublished Opinion

Original Appeal
Original Proceeding
Review Granted
XXX 110 Cal.App.4th 1594
Rehearing Granted


Opinion No.

Date Filed: May 26, 2005


County: Sacramento
Judge: Jack Sapunor


Attorneys for Appellant:

Madeline McDowell, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for Defendant and Appellant.


Attorneys for Respondent:

Bill Lockyer, Attorney General, Manuel M. Medeiros, State Solicitor General, Robert R. Anderson, Chief
Assistant Attorney General, Mary Jo Graves, Assistant Attorney General, Carlos A. Martinez, Janet E.
Neeley, Brian R. Means, Janis Shank McLean, John G. McLean and Aaron R. Maguire, Deputy Attorneys
General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

David La Bahn; Steve Cooley, District Attorney (Los Angeles), Patrick D. Moran, Acting Head Deputy
District Attorney, and Brent Riggs, Deputy District Attorney, for Appellate Committee of the California
District Attorneys Association as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Plaintiff and Respondent.

Counsel who argued in Supreme Court (not intended for publication with opinion):

Madeline McDowell
1305 North H Street, Suite A
PMB 306
Lompoc, CA 93436
(805) 733-4933

Aaron Maguire
Deputy Attorney General
1300 I Street
Sacramento, CA 94244-2550
(916) 327-6733

Opinion Information
Date:Docket Number:
Thu, 05/26/2005S119067

1The People (Plaintiff and Respondent)
Represented by Aaron Ross Maguire
Ofc Attorney General
P.O. Box 944255
Sacramento, CA

2Wright, Donald Thomas (Defendant and Appellant)
Salinas Valley State Prison
P.O. Box 1020
Soledad, CA 93960

Represented by Madeline Mcdowell
Attorney at Law
PMB 306, 1305 North "H" Street., Suite A
Lompoc, CA

3Wright, Donald Thomas (Defendant and Appellant)
Salinas Valley State Prison
P.O. Box 1020
Soledad, CA 93960

Represented by Central California Appellate Program
2407 "J" Street, Suite 301
2407 "J" Street, Suite 301
Sacramento, CA

4California District Attorneys Association (Amicus curiae)
Represented by Brent D. Riggs
Ofc District Attorney
320 W Temple St #540
Los Angeles, CA

May 26 2005Opinion: Reversed

Sep 12 2003Petition for review filed
  by (AG) counsel for respondent (People)
Sep 16 2003Received Court of Appeal record
  1 doghouse
Sep 25 2003Record requested
  requested balance of record
Oct 3 2003Received Court of Appeal record
  two doghouses
Oct 28 2003Time extended to grant or deny review
  The time for granting or denying review in the above-entitled matter is hereby extended to and including December 11, 2003, or the date upon which review is either granted or denied.
Nov 12 2003Petition for Review Granted (criminal case)
  Votes: George, C.J., Kennard, Baxter, Werdegar, Chin, Brown and Moreno, JJ.
Dec 5 2003Request for extension of time filed
  Respondent requesting to Jan. 12, 2003 to file opening brief on the merits (recvd in Sacto).
Dec 11 2003Counsel appointment order filed
  Upon request of appellant for appointment of counsel, Madeline McDowell is hereby appointed to represent appellant on his appeal now pending in this court. Appellant's brief on the merits shall be served and filed on or before thirty (30) days from the date respondent's opening brief on the merits is filed.
Dec 12 2003Extension of time granted
  On application of respondent and good cause appearing, it is ordered that the time to serve and file the opening brief on the merits is extended to and including December 26, 2003. No further extensions will be granted.
Dec 23 2003Opening brief on the merits filed
  In Sacramento by counsel for Respondent {The People}.
Jan 16 2004Received Court of Appeal record
Jan 26 2004Application to file over-length brief filed
  by appellant - oversized answer brief. (timely per rule 40k)
Jan 27 2004Answer brief on the merits filed
  with permission by counsel for appellant.
Feb 17 2004Received:
  from counsel for resp. over-sized reply brief on the merits.
Feb 19 2004Application to file over-length brief filed
  by counsel for resp. (People)
Feb 20 2004Reply brief filed (case fully briefed)
  with permission by counsel for resp. (People)
Mar 18 2004Received application to file Amicus Curiae Brief
  and brief of Appellate Committee Of The California District Attorneys Association (under same cover) in support of respondent (People)
Mar 25 2004Permission to file amicus curiae brief granted
  Appellate Committee of the Calif. Dist. Attys. Assoc. in support of respondent. (non-party)
Mar 25 2004Amicus curiae brief filed
  Appellate Committee of the Calif. Dist. Attys. Assoc. An answer thereto may be served and filed by any party within twenty days of the filing of the brief.
Apr 12 2004Request for extension of time filed
  counsel for appellant requests extension of time to April 23, 2004 to file the answer to amicus curiae brief of the Appellate Committee of the Calif. Dist. Attorneys Association
Apr 14 2004Extension of time granted
  Appellant's time to serve and file the response to amicus curiae brief is extended to and including April 23, 2004. No further extensions will be granted.
Apr 16 2004Filed:
  appellant Wright's answer to amicus brief filed by Calif District Attorneys Assn.
May 12 2004Compensation awarded counsel
  Atty McDowell
Feb 9 2005Case ordered on calendar
  3/8/05 @9am, S.F.
Mar 8 2005Cause argued and submitted
May 26 2005Opinion filed: Judgment reversed
  and remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. Opinion by Brown, J. -----joined by George, C.J., Kennard, Baxter, Werdegar, Chin, and Moreno, JJ. Concurring Opinion by Brown, J. -----joined by Baxter and Moreno, JJ.
Jun 6 2005Rehearing petition filed
  by counsel for appellant (Donald Thomas Wright).
Jun 7 2005Time extended to consider modification or rehearing
  to and including August 28, 2005 or the date upon which rehearing is either granted or denied, whichever occurs first.
Jun 29 2005Rehearing denied
  Request for modification denied. Brown, J., was absent and did not participate.
Jun 29 2005Remittitur issued (criminal case)
Jul 6 2005Received:
  Receipt for Remittitur from 3DCA
Jul 21 2005Returned record
  to 3DCA.
Sep 23 2005Compensation awarded counsel
  Atty McDowell

Dec 23 2003Opening brief on the merits filed
Jan 27 2004Answer brief on the merits filed
Feb 20 2004Reply brief filed (case fully briefed)
Mar 25 2004Amicus curiae brief filed
If you'd like to submit a brief document to be included for this opinion, please submit an e-mail to the SCOCAL website