Jury Influenced by Disposition Evidence Case Law

In People v. Van Winkle (1999), 75 Cal. App. 4th 133, 147-149, People v. O'Neal (2000), 78 Cal. App. 4th 1065, and People v. Regalado (2000), 78 Cal. App. 4th 1056, the appellate courts hypothesized the process by which rational and reasonably intelligent jurors might harmonize the instructions as a whole. In the context of now-admissible disposition evidence under Evidence Code section 1108, however, we are not persuaded this was reasonably likely. The danger that juries may be unduly influenced by disposition evidence is so well established that until enactment of Evidence Code section 1108, such evidence was universally excluded. (People v. Falsetta, supra, 21 Cal. 4th 903, 913-914; People v. Alcala (1984) 36 Cal. 3d 604, 630-631 [205 Cal. Rptr. 775, 685 P.2d 1126].) Although admission of disposition evidence under section 1108 does not violate due process (People v. Falsetta, supra, 21 Cal. 4th at pp. 912-922), an essential safeguard to prevent its lessening the prosecution's burden of proof is proper instructions to the jury that evidence of prior offenses is not sufficient to prove guilt of the charged crime beyond a reasonable doubt. (See People v. Falsetta, supra, 21 Cal. 4th at p. 920; People v. Fitch, supra, 55 Cal. App. 4th 172, 182 & fn. 4; People v. Vichroy, supra, 76 Cal. App. 4th 92, 99.)