Jury Unanimity Requirement In Second Degree Murder Cases In California

In People v. Brown (1995) 35 Cal.App.4th 708, the court held that juror unanimity was not required as to whether express or implied malice existed in finding Brown guilty of second degree murder. The Brown court applied the analysis of Schad v. Arizona (1991) 501 U.S. 624 in making this determination. (Brown, supra, at pp. 712-716.) Schad held that a jury need not unanimously agree which theory of first degree murder applied when the verdict could have been based either on malice or on felony murder. "Writing for the plurality in Schad Justice Souter explained that due process principles limit 'a State's capacity to define different courses of conduct, or states of mind, as merely alternative means of committing a single offense, thereby permitting a defendant's conviction without jury agreement as to which course or state actually occurred.' However, the plurality refused to adopt any single test for determining when that limit has been exceeded. Instead, the plurality decided, 'Our sense of appropriate specificity in defining offenses is a distillate of the concept of due process with its demands for fundamental fairness, . . . and for the rationality that is an essential component of that fairness.'" (Brown, supra, at pp. 712-713.)