California Penal Code Section 12022.7(a)
Section 12022.7, subdivision (a), imposes a three-year sentence enhancement when the defendant "personally inflicts" great bodily injury on any person (other than the defendant's accomplice) in the commission of a felony. The "personally inflicts" language in section 12022.7 was construed in People v. Cole (1982) 31 Cal.3d 568 (Cole) to exclude liability for aiders and abettors.
In People v. Cole (1982) 31 Cal.3d 568, the defendant (during a burglary and robbery) ordered his accomplice to kill the victim and blocked the victim's escape while his accomplice repeatedly struck the victim, but never struck the victim. (Id. at p. 571.)
The defendant challenged the section 12022.7 enhancement, and Cole held the "personally inflicts" statutory language clearly and unambiguously required that the individual accused of inflicting great bodily injury must be "the person who directly acted to cause the injury. The choice of the word 'personally' necessarily excludes those who may have aided or abetted the actor directly inflicting the injury." (Cole, at p. 572.)
Cole also concluded this interpretation was consistent with the statute's aim of deterring the infliction of great bodily injury, reasoning that a "construction limiting its scope to the person who himself inflicts the injury serves that purpose; each member of a criminal undertaking will know that, regardless of the urgings of his confederates, if he actually inflicts the injury he alone will pay the increased penalty." (Id. at pp. 572-573.)
In People v. Corona (1989) 213 Cal.App.3d 589, the Court evaluated whether Cole precluded a section 12022.7 sentence enhancement when the defendant was one of numerous assailants who attacked the victim, knocked him to the ground and repeatedly hit and kicked him, causing the victim numerous significant injuries, primarily to his head. Addressing the true finding on the section 12022.7 allegation, Corona held there was substantial evidence to support the finding. (Corona, at pp. 591-595.)
Moreover, Corona concluded the Cole analysis did not apply in the context of a "group pummeling," reasoning:
"While Cole has logical application with regard to the section 12022.7 culpability of an aider and abettor who strikes no blow, it makes no sense when applied to a group pummeling. Central to Cole is the conclusion that the deterrent intent of section 12022.7 is served by directing its increased punishment at the actor who ultimately inflicts the injury. Applying Cole uncritically in the context of this case does not create a deterrent effect. Rather it would lead to the insulation of individuals who engage in group beatings. Only those whose foot could be traced to a particular kick, whose fist could be patterned to a certain blow or whose weapon could be aligned with a visible injury would be punished. The more severe the beating, the more difficult would be the tracing of culpability. Thus, while it is true the evidence fails to directly attribute any particular injury suffered by the victim to any particular blow struck by Corona, still, the blows were delivered, Corona joined in that delivery and the victim suffered great bodily injury. . . . We do not attempt to set forth a universally applicable test for when an individual ceases to be an accomplice and becomes a direct participant to the infliction of great bodily injury. We conclude only that when a defendant participates in a group beating and when it is not possible to determine which assailant inflicted which injuries, the defendant may be punished with a great bodily injury enhancement if his conduct was of a nature that it could have caused the great bodily injury suffered." (Corona, at p. 594.)
Other courts subsequently applied or refined Corona's approach. In In re Sergio R. (1991) 228 Cal.App.3d 588, multiple assailants discharged shotguns loaded with pellet shot into a group of people and it was not possible to determine which assailant inflicted which injuries.
The court held the defendant could be punished with a great bodily injury enhancement if his conduct was of a nature that could have caused the great bodily injury suffered. (Id. at pp. 601-602.)
In People v. Banuelos (2003) 106 Cal.App.4th 1332, the Court reaffirmed its adherence to Corona, holding that when multiple persons, including the defendant, had attacked the victim and struck him about the head, and the surgeon testified he could not tell exactly what instrument or object had caused the broken jaw or other head injuries, the defendant could properly be punished with a great bodily injury enhancement. (Banuelos, at pp. 1336-1338.)
In contrast, the court in People v. Magana (1993) 17 Cal.App.4th 1371 held that when multiple assailants assault a victim but it is nevertheless possible to distinguish and trace the specific injury constituting the great bodily injury to the specific assailant's conduct, Corona does not permit imposition of the section 12022.7 enhancement on anyone other than the assailant whose conduct caused the injury. (Magana, at p. 1381.)