When will a trial court instruct the jury on the defense of unconsciousness and self-defense in a case of involuntary manslaughter?

California, United States of America

The following excerpt is from People v. Barton, 12 Cal.4th 186, 47 Cal.Rptr.2d 569, 906 P.2d 531 (Cal. 1995):

In People v. Sedeno (1974) 10 Cal.3d 703, 112 Cal.Rptr. 1, 518 P.2d 913 (hereafter Sedeno ) we explained when a trial court must instruct on lesser included offenses. There, the defendant was charged with murder for shooting a police officer with the officer's own gun. At trial, the defendant argued that he was not guilty of murder because mental illness rendered him incapable of acting with malice. He also contended, based on his own testimony, that the victim was shot when the gun accidentally discharged during a struggle between the officer and himself, and that he lacked the intent to kill. The jury convicted the defendant of first degree murder. On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court had erred in not instructing the jury on the lesser included offenses of voluntary and involuntary manslaughter and on the defenses of unconsciousness and self-defense. We found no error in the trial court's failure to instruct on voluntary manslaughter, unconsciousness and self-defense, but concluded that the trial court should have instructed the jury on involuntary manslaughter.

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