Jury Instructions on Both Heat of Passion and Unreasonable Self-defense Theories
In Breverman, our Supreme Court held that it was error not to give instructions on both heat of passion and unreasonable self-defense theories of manslaughter.
The court reasoned:
"There was evidence that a sizeable group of young men, armed with dangerous weapons and harboring a specific hostile intent, trespassed upon domestic property occupied by the defendant and acted in a menacing manner. This intimidating conduct included challenges to the defendant to fight, followed by use of the weapons to batter and smash defendant's vehicle parked in the driveway of his residence, within a short distance from the front door. Defendant and the other persons in the house all indicated that the number and behavior of the intruders, which defendant characterized as a 'mob,' caused immediate fear and panic. Under these circumstances, a reasonable jury could infer that defendant was aroused to passion, and his reason was thus obscured, by a provocation sufficient to produce such effects in a person of average disposition." (Id. at pp. 163-164.)
The California Supreme Court has since explained that its holding, in Breverman was limited to the facts of that case.
"Nothing in Breverman suggests an instruction on heat of passion is required in every case in which the only evidence of unreasonable self-defense is the circumstance that a defendant is attacked and consequently fears for his life. In Breverman there was affirmative evidence that the defendant panicked in the face of an attack on his car and home by a mob of angry men and had come out shooting, and continued shooting, even after the group had turned and ran." (People v. Moye (2009) 47 Cal.4th 537, 555.)