CALCRIM 224 - Interpretation

In People v. Anderson (2007) 152 Cal.App.4th 919, the defendant contended that, because CALCRIM No. 224 is limited to circumstantial evidence and sets forth basic reasonable doubt and burden of proof principles, it gives the false impression that these principles apply to circumstantial evidence but not to direct evidence. (Anderson, supra, 152 Cal.App.4th at p. 931.) In rejecting the defendant's contention, the court stated that CALCRIM No. 224 "cautions the jury not to rely on circumstantial evidence to find the defendant guilty unless the only reasonable conclusion to be drawn from it points to the defendant's guilt. In other words, in determining whether a fact necessary for conviction has been proved beyond a reasonable doubt, circumstantial evidence may be relied on only if the only reasonable inference that may be drawn from it points to the defendant's guilt. The same limitation does not apply to direct evidence. Circumstantial evidence involves a two-step process: presentation of the evidence followed by a determination of what reasonable inference or inferences may be drawn from it. By contrast, direct evidence stands on its own. It is evidence that does not require an inference. Thus, as to direct evidence, there is no need to decide whether there is an opposing inference that suggests innocence." (Ibid.) The defendant in Anderson also challenged CALCRIM No. 224 by contending that "California law has long recognized the principle that 'if two reasonable interpretations of the evidence exist, the one favoring the defendant's innocence must be adopted,' and this principle applies to both direct and circumstantial evidence." (Anderson, supra, 152 Cal.App.4th at p. 931.) In rejecting the contention, the court stated "The question addressed by CALCRIM No. 224 is not how to consider the evidence as a whole but how to consider specific circumstantial evidence. the instruction concerns whether a necessary fact may reasonably be inferred from circumstantial evidence when that evidence can be construed in a way that points to the defendant's innocence, not whether the evidence as a whole may reasonably be construed to point to the defendant's innocence." (Id. at p. 932.)