Aiding and Abetting Murder California Case Law

In People v. Sidelinger (1908) 9 Cal. App. 298, 299, 99 P. 390, the defendant Sidelinger was convicted as an aider and abettor of a murder actually committed by Hayes. The trial court refused to give a voluntary manslaughter instruction apparently reasoning that under no view of the evidence could the jury find the defendant guilty of manslaughter. The Court of Appeal, in the companion case of People v. Hayes (1908) 9 Cal. App. 301, 99 P. 386, found it was error for the trial court to refuse the manslaughter instruction. In Sidelinger the Court of Appeal found the failure to give the manslaughter instruction was prejudicial as to Sidelinger stating, "If, in fact, Hayes actually killed Jenks, and in so doing only committed the crime of manslaughter, his aiders and abettors were only guilty of manslaughter." (People v. Sidelinger, supra, 9 Cal. App. at p. 299.) Sidelinger is directly on point and we shall follow it. It is true that two California cases have held that an aider and abettor may be convicted of a lesser crime than the actual perpetrator. The first of these is People v. Blackwood (1939) 35 Cal. App. 2d 728, 96 P.2d 982. There this court reasoned that an aider and abettor could be convicted of a lesser crime than the actual perpetrator because "the evidence against them is not necessarily precisely the same. The firing of the shots by Blackwood warranted an inference of the malice which is essential to the crime of murder, while Mrs. Blackwood might not be chargeable with guilty knowledge of that malice, but might nevertheless be guilty of aiding and abetting him in the commission of voluntary manslaughter 'upon a sudden quarrel or heat of passion.'" (Id. at p. 733.)