Non Structural Error In a Jury Instruction

Any error in giving the instruction was not reversible per se under federal constitutional analysis. "As a general rule, . . . 'if the defendant had counsel and was tried by an impartial adjudicator, there is a strong presumption that any other errors that may have occurred are subject to harmless-error analysis. the thrust of the many constitutional rules governing the conduct of criminal trials is to ensure that those trials lead to fair and correct judgments. Where a reviewing court can find that the record developed at trial establishes guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the interest in fairness has been satisfied and the judgment should be affirmed." (People v. Flood (1998) 18 Cal. 4th 470, 492 76 Cal. Rptr. 2d 180, 957 P.2d 869, citing Rose v. Clark (1986) 478 U.S. 570, 579 106 S. Ct. 3101, 3106, 92 L. Ed. 2d 460.) The California Supreme Court in People v. Flood (1998) went on to summarize United States Supreme Court development of the law in this area, as follows: People v. Flood, supra, 18 Cal. 4th 470, went on to observe "the United States Supreme Court made clear that at least one type of instructional error may amount to a structural defect in the trial mechanism that requires reversal regardless of the strength of the evidence of the defendant's guilt. Flood involved a prosecution for evading peace officers, where the trial court did not instruct the jurors to decide whether the police were peace officers but instead informed the jurors that the police who chased the defendant were peace officers. The California Supreme Court held that, although the trial court committed constitutional error in violation of the defendant's due process right to have the jury decide each element of the offense, the error was not "structural error," hence, not reversible per se, but rather was subject to harmless error analysis under the Chapman standard. (People v. Flood, supra, 18 Cal. 4th at pp. 502-503.) The United States Supreme Court has endorsed a categorical approach to structural errors, i.e., a particular error is either structural or it is not, regardless of the facts of the particular case. (Neder v. United States (1999) 527 U.S. 1 119 S. Ct. 1827, 144 L. Ed. 2d 35, 50 in criminal tax fraud case, trial court's refusal to submit materiality issue to jury was not structural error.)