CALCRIM 220 - Interpretation

In People v. Westbrooks (2007) 151 Cal.App.4th 1500, the Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, Division One, stated: "CALCRIM No. 220 merely instructs the jury that it must consider only the evidence presented at trial in determining whether the People have met their burden of proof. In other words, this instruction informs the jury that the People may not meet their burden of proof based on evidence other than that offered at trial. The instruction does not tell the jury that it may not consider any perceived lack of evidence in determining whether there is a reasonable doubt as to a defendant's guilt. Further, the remainder of the instructions clearly conveyed to the jury the notion that the People had the burden of proving defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and that the jury was required to determine whether the People had met their burden of proving all of the facts essential to establishing his guilt." In Westbrooks, the trial court also instructed the jury with the following instructions: CALCRIM No. 222, "Evidence," and CALCRIM No. 223, "Direct and Circumstantial Evidence: Defined." In People v. Guerrero (2007) 155 Cal.App.4th 1264, the Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District, stated: "CALCRIM No. 220 does not suggest an impermissible definition of reasonable doubt to the jury. the instruction defines reasonable doubt as the absence of an abiding conviction in the truth of the charges. . . . The instruction neither lowers the prosecution's standard of proof nor raises the amount of doubt the jury must have in order to acquit a defendant. . . . CALCRIM No. 220 instructs the jury to acquit in the absence of evidence. . . . The jury is instructed to consider only the evidence, and to acquit unless the evidence proves defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If the government presents no evidence, then proof beyond a reasonable doubt is lacking, and a reasonable juror applying this instruction would acquit the defendant." In People v. Flores (2007) 153 Cal.App.4th 1088, the Court of Appeal, Fifth Appellate District, addressed the identical issue. The court stated: "Here, the plain language of CALCRIM No. 220 tells the jury that 'unless the evidence proves the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, he is entitled to an acquittal and you must find him not guilty.' . . . The only reasonable understanding of this language is that a lack of evidence could lead to reasonable doubt. Nothing about the instructions given implies to the jury that the defendant must adduce evidence that promotes reasonable doubt or that the defendant must persuade the jury of his or her innocence by evidence presented at trial."