Jury Instructions on All Elements of the Offense Charged
In Apprendi v. New Jersey (2000), the United States Supreme Court discussed its prior ruling in McMillan v. Pennsylvania (1986), 477 U.S. at pages 86-88.
In People v. Wims (1995), the California Supreme Court relied extensively upon McMillan in concluding that the United States Constitution did not guarantee a jury trial on an issue of the validity of a firearm enhancement allegation. (People v. Wims, supra, 10 Cal. 4th at pp. 304-309.)
In Apprendi, the United States Supreme Court limited its prior holding in McMillan as follows, "We do not overrule McMillan. We limit its holding to cases that do not involve the imposition of a sentence more severe than the statutory maximum for the offense established by the jury's verdict--a limitation identified in the McMillan opinion itself." (Apprendi v. New Jersey, supra, U.S. at p., fn. 13 120 S. Ct. at p. 2361.)
Quite obviously, that portion of the Wims decision which held that the federal Constitution does not guarantee the right to trial by jury under the Sixth Amendment of a firearm allegation which can result in the imposition of a sentence more severe than the statutory maximum for the offense established by the jury's verdict has now been abrogated by Apprendi.
The jury trial right under the Sixth Amendment includes the obligation of a trial court to correctly instruct the jury as to each of the elements of the charged offense.
In People v. Flood (1998) 18 Cal. 4th 470, 491, 957 P.2d 869, the California Supreme Court held:
"The United States Supreme Court has held that jury instructions relieving the prosecution of the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt each element of the charged offense violate the defendant's due process rights under the federal Constitution. (Sullivan v. Louisiana (1993) 508 U.S. 275, 277-278, 124 L. Ed. 2d 182, 113 S. Ct. 2078 ; Carella v. California (1989) 491 U.S. 263, 265, 105 L. Ed. 2d 218, 109 S. Ct. 2419 (per curiam); People v. Kobrin (1995) 11 Cal. 4th 416, 422-423 & fn. 4, 903 P.2d 1027 collecting cases.)
Such erroneous instructions also implicate Sixth Amendment principles preserving the exclusive domain of the trier of fact. (Carella v. California, supra, 491 U.S. at p. 265 ; People v. Kobrin, supra, 11 Cal. 4th at p. 423.)
In People v. Avila (1995) 35 Cal. App. 4th 642, 651-652, we synthesized the federal constitutional authority on the right to instruction as to the elements of an offense as follows:
"It is well established that the Sixth Amendment guarantees a criminal defendant the right to require the prosecution to prove . . . guilt . . . beyond a reasonable doubt. (Victor v. Nebraska (1994) 511 U.S. 1, 5, 114 S. Ct. 1239, 127 L. Ed. 2d 583 .)
In Sullivan v. Louisiana (1993) 508 U.S. 275, 277 , the United States Supreme Court held:
'What the factfinder must determine to return a verdict of guilty is prescribed by the Due Process Clause. the prosecution bears the burden of proving all elements of the offense charged, and must persuade the factfinder "beyond a reasonable doubt" of the facts necessary to establish each of those elements . . . .'
The United States Supreme Court has extended this right to constitutionally require that no jury instructions relieve the prosecution of the responsibility of proving each element beyond a reasonable doubt. In Carella v. California (1989) 491 U.S. 263, 265, 105 L. Ed. 2d 218, 109 S. Ct. 2419 , the court held:
'Jury instructions relieving States of this burden of proving each element of an offense beyond a reasonable doubt violate a defendant's due process rights. Such directions subvert the presumption of innocence accorded to accused persons and also invade the truth-finding task assigned solely to juries in criminal cases.'
Applied to the present context, a necessary corollary of the Apprendi decision is that a trial judge must instruct on all the elements of a firearm use enhancement.
When a trial judge neglects to do so, this relieves the prosecution of the burden of proving each element of the charge beyond a reasonable doubt.
Under these circumstances, such an erroneous instruction violates the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause.