CALJIC 17.41.1 - Interpretation
1. In People v. Williams (2001) 25 Cal.4th 441, CALJIC No. 17.41.1 had not been given. the foreperson advised the court on his own initiative that a fellow juror believed that the law with regard to rape and statutory rape was wrong and was refusing to discuss those offenses.
The court interviewed the juror in question and ascertained that the foreperson's assessment was correct. the court excused the juror and replaced him with an alternate. the jury went on to convict. the Supreme Court affirmed the conviction, stating:
"Jury nullification is contrary to our ideal of equal justice for all and permits both the prosecution's case and the defendant's fate to depend upon the whims of a particular jury, rather than upon the equal application of settled rules of law. . . . a nullifying jury is essentially a lawless jury. We reaffirm, therefore, the basic rule that jurors are required to determine the facts and render a verdict in accordance with the court's instructions on the law. a juror who is unable or unwilling to do so is 'unable to perform his or her duty' as a juror (Pen. Code, 1089) and may be discharged." ( People v. Williams, supra, 25 Cal.4th at p. 463.)
The Court noted that it was aware of no cases holding "that a trial court violates the defendant's right to a jury trial by excusing a juror who refuses to follow the law." (At p. 449.)
While, "as a practical matter, the jury in a criminal case may have the ability to disregard the court's instructions in the defendant's favor without recourse by the prosecution, this does not diminish the trial court's authority to discharge a juror who, the court learns, is unable or unwilling to follow the court's instructions." (Ibid.)
The court observed that "it long has been recognized that, in some instances, a jury has the ability to disregard, or nullify, the law." ( People v. Williams, supra, 25 Cal.4th at p. 449.)
It can acquit a defendant despite evidence establishing guilt. (Ibid.) It may render inconsistent verdicts. (Ibid.) the jury's "'"assumption of a power which they had no right to exercise, but to which they were disposed through lenity"'" is not subject to review or challenge by the prosecution. (Ibid.)
Nonetheless, "it is still the right of the court to instruct the jury on the law, and the duty of the jury to obey the instructions." ( People v. Williams, supra, 25 Cal.4th at p. 451.) This has long been the law established by both the United States and California Supreme Courts. ( Id. at pp. 451-456.)
It also has been the law that the trial court is not required to instruct the jury on its power of nullification or permit the jury to disregard the law. ( People v. Williams, supra, 25 Cal.4th at p. 455.)
Rather, it is proper for the trial court to instruct the jury on its obligation to follow the instructions given to it and to discharge a juror who refuses to do so. ( Id. at p. 461.)
The directive set forth in CALJIC No. 17.41.1 to notify the court if a juror refuses to deliberate, expresses an intent to disregard the law, or to use any improper basis, such as punishment, in reaching a verdict is a vehicle for ensuring that jurors comply with their duties.
CALJIC No. 17.41.1 does nothing more than remind jurors of their obligation to follow the instructions given to them, which is absolutely proper. ( People v. Williams, supra, 25 Cal.4th at p. 452.)
The Supreme Court's opinion in Williams makes it clear that CALJIC No. 17.41.1 is consistent with the long-established law that the trial court has the right to instruct the jury on the law, and the jury has the duty to obey its instructions. (Williams, supra, at pp. 451-452.)
2. In People v. Molina (2000) 82 Cal.App.4th 1329, the Court concluded that "any error in instructing the jury with CALJIC No. 17.41.1 is not reversible per se, but rather is subject to harmless error analysis." ( Id. at p. 1335.)
In Molina, we further rejected the defendant's "speculative assumption that the instruction had a chilling effect on the jurors' deliberations, inhibiting the kind of free expression and interaction among jurors that is so important to the deliberative process" because there was no indication of deadlock or holdout jurors. ( People v. Molina, supra, 82 Cal.App.4th at p. 1336.)