Voluntary manslaughter jury instruction is required where substantial evidence showed Defendant did not subjectively appreciate that their conduct placed the victim’s life in danger

By: Wallin & Klarich

Amalia Bryan was found guilty of second degree murder. Ms. Bryan argued that she got into a physical altercation with her live in boyfriend. The boyfriend had pinned Ms. Bryan down and began to strangle her. Ms. Bryan broke free and attempted to leave the residence. Ms. Bryan grabbed a glass candle holder. Also, as she was leaving the residence, she grabbed a knife in which she stabbed her boyfriend with when he directly lunged at her. On appeal, Ms. Bryan argued that the trial court failed to instruct the jury on an instruction of a lesser included offense of voluntary manslaughter. The Court of Appeal agreed with Ms. Bryan and reversed Ms. Bryan’s conviction.

The Court of Appeal explained that the trial court has a duty to instruct the jury that an unintentional killing without malice committed during the course of a dangerous felony constitutes voluntary manslaughter. Under People v. Garcia (2008) 162 Cal.App.4th 18, the court held that an unlawful killing during the commission of an inherently dangerous felony, even if unintentional, is at least voluntary manslaughter. In this case, the victim died from a single stab wound during a physical struggle. Moreover, Ms. Bryan never made any statements or testimony that she had planned or intended to stab her boyfriend or that she knew that her act of thrusting the knife toward him as he lunged at her would endanger his life. Since a reasonable jury could have found that Ms. Bryan did not subjectively appreciate that her conduct endangered the victim’s life because the stabbing occurred during a heated struggle and there was only one stab wound.

If you or a loved one is facing a charge of voluntary manslaughter , it is critical that you speak with an experienced Orange County criminal defense attorney. At Wallin & larich, our attorneys have over 30 years of experience in handling murder cases. Our attorneys will defend your rights and fight to get you the best possible result in your case. Call us today at (888) 280-6839 or visit us on our website at www.wklaw.com. We will be there when you call.

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