CALJIC 4.45 - Interpretation

In People v. Gonzales (1999) 74 Cal.App.4th 382, the jury submitted a question to the trial court seeking clarification of the meaning of "willful intent," and, in discussion with the trial court, a juror indicated the jury was troubled as to how the concepts of "willful" and "accidental" related. The trial court refused to clarify the standard instruction any further. ( People v. Gonzales, supra, 74 Cal.App.4th at pp. 388-389.) In addition, the victim testified the defendant had injured her accidentally. In Gonzales, the jury was clearly confused. In the instant case, the jury submitted no questions, and the prosecution expressly asserted that it did not seek a conviction on the basis of an accidental act. Any error in failing to specifically instruct in the language of CALJIC No. 4.45 was therefore harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.