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Modified Jury Instruction Results in Reversal

California v. Myles Court: California Courts of Appeal, Docket: D079825 (Fourth Appellate District), Opinion Date: March 23, 2023. Andre Myles was homeless when he broke into an unoccupied Oceanside house. During the 15 hours he was inside, he did not take anything of significant value. But he drank a juice box and ate ice cream belonging to the owner, and he charged the battery in the owner’s vehicle. Several months later, Myles tried to break into the house again. The only disputed issue at Myles’ trial for first degree residential burglary and attempted first degree residential burglary was whether he had the specific intent to commit theft when he entered or tried to enter the house. Myles claimed he did not have the required specific intent and presented evidence he suffered from a mental disorder that caused him to experience delusions, and at the time of each incident, these delusions caused him to believe the home belonged to him because it had been given to him by an “entity” named “Archangel Michael.” The trial court modified the pattern instruction on the definition of theft by larceny (CALCRIM No. 1800). The modified instruction also contained citations to appellate decisions involving burglary charges arising from alleged incidental use of utilities and consumption of food inside a victim’s home. The jury convicted Myles of both charges. The Court of Appeal concluded the trial court committed prejudicial instructional error when it modified the definition of theft and provided the jury with citations to appellate decisions that included factual summaries of other burglary cases. Consequently, Myles’ convictions of burglary and attempted burglary were reversed and the case remanded for possible retrial.

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