Jury Instructions on First and Second Degree Murder In California

In People v. Cole (2004) 33 Cal.4th 1158, the court instructed jurors on first and second degree murder. As to first degree murder, the court explained that if "'the killing was preceded and accompanied by a clear, deliberate intent . . . , which was the result of deliberation and premeditation, so that it must have been formed upon pre-existing reflection and not under a sudden heat of passion or other condition precluding the idea of deliberation,' it was first degree murder." (Id. at p. 1217; see CALJIC No. 8.20 (5th ed.1988).) the court further explained that if jurors found that provocation induced an unlawful killing and that the killing was murder, they could consider the provocation in determining whether the murder was first or second degree. (People v. Cole, supra, 33 Cal.4th at p. 1217; see CALJIC No. 8.73 (5th ed. 1988).) On appeal, the defendant claimed that because the court's instructions referred to "'heat of passion,'" the court had a duty to further define "'provocation'" as it related to voluntary manslaughter. (People v. Cole, supra, 33 Cal.4th at p. 1217.) In rejecting this claim, the court stated that as used in the instruction concerning the reduction of murder from first to second degree, provocation bore its "common meaning" and "required no further explanation in the absence of a specific request." (Id. at pp. 1217-1218.) In other words, as used in CALCRIM No. 522, "provocation" needs no further definition.