What if a trial court failed to instruct the jury on self-defence?

California, United States of America


The following excerpt is from People v. Wachter, G040314 (Cal. App. 12/18/2009), G040314. (Cal. App. 2009):

This not only deprived the jury of the opportunity to render a verdict that was commensurate with the evidence in the case. (See People v. Breverman (1998) 19 Cal.4th 142, 155 [a chief rationale for requiring trial courts to instruct on all applicable theories is that it guards against verdicts that are harsher or more lenient than the evidence merits].) It also created the potential for a miscarriage of justice, given the considerations we have discussed. Other courts have found prejudicial error in the omission of instructions on a defense that was, as here, both supported by the evidence adduced at trial and consistent with the jury's verdict in the case (See, e.g., People v. Elize (1999) 71 Cal.App.4th 605 [reversing conviction due to trial court's failure to instruct on self-defense], and we cannot ignore it here.

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