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REVERSED: 'Kill Zone' Theory Jury Instruction Erroneous

In re Sambrano Docket: E078147 (Fourth Appellate District), Opinion Date: June 9, 2022. Petitioner Jesse Sambrano sought to reverse his attempted murder convictions because his jury was given a kill zone instruction that was erroneous under California v. Canizales, 7 Cal.5th 591 (2019). The State conceded the error but argued it was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. The Court of Appeal concluded after a review of the trial court record: (1) the jury should not have been instructed on the kill zone theory at all; (2) the instruction’s description of the kill zone theory was erroneous; (3) the prosecutor relied almost exclusively on the kill zone theory in arguing that Sambrano had the necessary mental state for attempted murder; and (4) the prosecutor’s argument concerning the kill zone theory was likewise erroneous. From this, the Court could not conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that a properly instructed jury would not have reached a verdict more favorable to Sambrano. "Accordingly, the convictions on the attempted murder counts must be reversed." the petition was granted and the attempted murder convictions were vacated.

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