California Criminal Jury Instructions on Reasonable Doubt

California Criminal Jury Instructions (CALCRIM) No. 220 is a critical instruction because it informs the jury concerning the presumption of innocence and the prosecution's burden of proof. (See People v. Mayo (2006) 140 Cal.App.4th 535, 556, (Johnson, J., conc.) "In criminal trials, among the most critical and most difficult concepts the trial judge must convey to the jury are, first, the defendant enters the courtroom an innocent person and, second, the defendant can only be convicted if the prosecution produces evidence of guilt so overwhelming, it exceeds an extremely high threshold -- erasing all reasonable doubt.".) The first two sentences of the second paragraph inform the the jurors that a defendant is presumed to be innocent and that the prosecution must prove the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The purpose of the third sentence, the language inadvertently omitted by the court, is to inform the jury that the prosecutor is obliged to prove each element of the charged crimes beyond a reasonable doubt. (People v. Wyatt (2008) 165 Cal.App.4th 1592, 1601.) As explained in People v. Ramos (2008) 163 Cal.App.4th 1082, prior to a revision, the third sentence of the second paragraph of CALCRIM No. 220 stated: "'This presumption requires that the People prove each element of a crime and special allegation beyond a reasonable doubt.'" (163 Cal.App.4th at p. 1088, fn. 3.) The new language, together with the instructions "enumerating each of the elements of the charged crimes and the special allegations, and stating that the People were obligated to prove each of those elements in order for the defendant to be found guilty," similarly informs the jury that "the prosecution is required to prove each element of the charged crime beyond a reasonable doubt." (Id. at pp. 1088-1089.) Although the language informing the jurors that the prosecution must prove each element of the charges beyond a reasonable doubt is useful and informative, no case has held that it is mandatory. To the contrary, our Supreme Court has said: "It would be correct to instruct that the People must prove every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt, but a defendant is not entitled to that instruction." (People v. Ochoa (2001) 26 Cal.4th 398, 444, fn. 13, disapproved on another point in People v. Prieto (2003) 30 Cal.4th 226, 263, fn. 14; accord, People v. Osband (1996) 13 Cal.4th 622, 678; People v. Reed (1952) 38 Cal.2d 423, 430; see also People v. Orchard (1971) 17 Cal.App.3d 568, 576-577 where trial court instructed on the presumption of innocence and reasonable doubt, compared the standards of proof in civil and criminal cases, and defined all essential terms of the crime charged, "an instruction respecting proof of each element beyond a reasonable doubt need not have been given".) CALJIC No. 2.90, the instruction on which CALCRIM No. 220 is based, which was regularly given prior to the Judicial Council's adoption of the CALCRIM instructions, contains no specific language describing the prosecution's burden of proof with respect to the elements of the charged offenses. The parallel paragraph of CALJIC No. 2.90 simply states: "A defendant in a criminal action is presumed to be innocent until the contrary is proved, and in case of a reasonable doubt whether his her guilt is satisfactorily shown, he she is entitled to a verdict of not guilty. This presumption places upon the People the burden of proving him her guilty beyond a reasonable doubt." (See People v. Thomas (2007) 150 Cal.App.4th 461, 465-466 Judicial Council's adoption of CALCRIM instructions "did not render any of the CALJIC instructions invalid or 'outdated.'".)