What is the test for instructing a jury on every theory of voluntary manslaughter in a murder case?

California, United States of America


The following excerpt is from People v. Allen, A155167 (Cal. App. 2020):

"California law requires a trial court, sua sponte, to instruct fully on all lesser necessarily included offenses supported by the evidence," which, in a murder prosecution, includes "the obligation to instruct on every supportable theory of the lesser included offense of voluntary manslaughter, not merely the theory or theories which have the strongest evidentiary support, or on which the defendant has openly relied." (People v. Breverman (1998) 19 Cal.4th 142, 148-149.) However, " '[s]uch instructions are required only where there is "substantial evidence" from which a rational jury could conclude that the defendant committed the lesser offense, and that he is not guilty of the greater offense. [Citation.]' " (People v. Williams (2015) 61 Cal.4th 1244, 1263.)

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