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Cal. Supreme Court: Conviction Reversed Due to Faulty Jury Instruction

People v. Hendrix Docket: S265668, Opinion Date: August 22, 2022. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeal concluding that an instructional error in Defendant's criminal trial was not prejudicial and thus did not require reversal, holding that the instructional error was prejudicial and required reversal. Defendant was charged with burglary after the police found him sitting on a bench outside a house in Oxnard after attempting to open the locked door. At issue was a standard mistake of fact instruction given to inform jurors that they should not convict Defendant if they believed he lacked criminal intent because he mistakenly believed that the house belonged to his cousin and not a stranger. The instruction, however, specified that the mistake had to be a reasonable one, which was error. The Supreme Court held that the instructional error required reversal because it effectively precluded the jury from giving full consideration to a mistake of fact claim that was supported by substantial evidence and that there was a reasonable chance that Defendant's jury would have come to a different verdict had it been correctly instructed.

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