February 20, 2023 By Paul Wallin

The California Court of Appeal determined whether a defendant is allowed the right to a new trial when the defendant demonstrates it was possible that the jury had convicted him based on improper jury instructions.

People v. Maldonado

In People v Maldonado, police recovered the body of a victim who suffered fatal stab wounds. Police had reason to believe Reynaldo Maldonado had information about this incident but were not able to locate him due to Maldonado leaving the state. In the following years, Maldonado mentioned to people that the killing was a friend’s idea, and his friend stabbed the victim with Maldonado’s help. Police soon heard about these stories and a police search uncovered, among other things, a knife that had been buried, and a picture of Maldonado’s friend with the victim’s body. Maldonado was soon located and arrested by police. Maldonado denied killing or assisting in killing the victim and asserted that following the killing, his friend had asked him to assist in concealing the body and knife. However, when jury instructions were given, there was no provision regarding a knowledge of, or conscious disregard for the risk to human life required for aider and abettor liability for implied malice. This was critical because it led the jury to believe they should be convicting a man using improper elements of the crime. Maldonado was convicted of first-degree murder and he appealed.  

What the Prosecution Must Prove

After review, the Court of Appeal found that a defendant may be guilty of a crime based on aiding and abetting if the prosecution can prove that the defendant:

  • Aided the perpetrator in the commission of a crime.
  • Knew that the perpetrator intended to commit the crime.
  • Intending to aid the perpetrator in the commission of the crime.
  • Knew that the act was dangerous to human life; and
  • Acted with conscious disregard for human life. 

However, the jury was only advised that a defendant could be found guilty of second-degree murder if the defendant knew of the purpose of the perpetrator and if he intended to encourage the act. The requirement regarding acting with a conscious disregard for human life was never mentioned in jury instructions. As a result, Maldonado’s conviction was incorrect, and he was given a new trial. 

Contact An Experienced Wallin & Klarich Defense Lawyer Today. 

If you believe the judge gave improper jury instructions in your or a loved one’s case, which led to the jury finding a guilty verdict, it may be possible to have the criminal conviction and sentence reversed. If you or your loved one may be entitled to a new trial call Wallin & Klarich today. We can review the history of the criminal case and tell you whether it may be possible to obtain a new trial. Wallin & Klarich has spent over 40 years fighting for our clients’ freedom and we will be here when you call. 

With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Victorville, West Covina, Torrance, Los Angeles, and San Diego, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal defense lawyer available near you who will fight hard to help you obtain the best result possible in your case.

Please contact us at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will be there when you call. 

AUTHOR: Paul Wallin

Paul Wallin is one of the most highly respected attorneys in Southern California. His vast experience, zealous advocacy for his clients and extensive knowledge of many areas of the law make Mr. Wallin a premiere Southern California attorney. Mr. Wallin founded Wallin & Klarich in 1981. As the senior partner of Wallin & Klarich, Mr. Wallin has been successfully representing clients for more than 30 years. Clients come to him for help in matters involving assault and battery, drug crimes, juvenile crimes, theft, manslaughter, sex offenses, murder, violent crimes, misdemeanors and felonies. Mr. Wallin also helps clients with family law matters such as divorce and child custody.

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