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High Court Finds Jury Instruction Flawed; Fails to Grant Relief

People v. Lemcke Court: Supreme Court of California, Docket: S250108, Opinion Date: May 27, 2021. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant of assault and robbery, holding that there was no constitutional violation in the trial court's providing the jury with an instruction modeled on CALCRIM No. 315 that listed fifteen factors the jury should consider when evaluating eyewitness identification evidence. The instruction in this case listed as a factor the jury should consider when evaluating eyewitness identification evidence how "certain" the witness was when he or she made an identification. On appeal, Defendant argued that the certainty instruction violated his state and federal due process rights to a fair trial because research shows that a witness's confidence in an identification is generally not a reliable indicator of accuracy. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that listing the witness's level of certainty as one of the factors the jury should consider when evaluating identification testimony did not render Defendant's trial fundamentally unfair. However, given the significance that witness certainty plays in the fact-finding process, the Court referred the matter to the Judicial Council to evaluate whether the instruction might be modified to avoid juror confusion regarding the correlation between certainty and accuracy.

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