Corpus Delicti Jury Instruction - CALCRIM 359

In People v. Alvarez (2002) 27 Cal.4th 1161, the California Supreme Court held that when the prosecutor relies on a defendant's extrajudicial statements, the court must instruct the jury on the requirement of independent proof of corpus delicti. The Court held: "Error in omitting a corpus delicti instruction is considered harmless, and thus no basis for reversal, if there appears no reasonable probability the jury would have reached a result more favorable to the defendant had the instruction been given. of course, as we have seen, the modicum of necessary independent evidence of the corpus delicti, and thus the jury's duty to find such independent proof, is not great. the independent evidence may be circumstantial, and need only be 'a slight or prima facie showing' permitting an inference of injury, loss, or harm from a criminal agency, after which the defendant's statements may be considered to strengthen the case on all issues. If, as a matter of law, this 'slight or prima facie' showing was made, a rational jury, properly instructed, could not have found otherwise, and the omission of an independent-proof instruction is necessarily harmless." (Alvarez, supra, 27 Cal.4th at p. 1181.)