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People v. Heath

California Courts of Appeal
255 Cal. Rptr. 120 (1989)


Heath (defendant) was apprehended by a deputy sheriff while fleeing a house through a broken window, carrying coins, jewelry, and a jewelry bag. Heath admitted burglarizing the house to the officer. At trial, Heath claimed that he had been forced to commit the burglary by Darryl Sodersten and claimed the defense of duress. Heath alleged that he had purchased drugs from Sodersten and owed him money for the drugs. According to Heath, he had been out with Sodersten drinking and taking drugs when Soderston had told him that Heath needed to commit a burglary to get money to pay him. Sodersten allegedly stopped by the house, pointed a gun at Heath’s head, and told Heath that he would kill him if he did not burglarize the house. At the trial, the judge gave the standard jury instructions for the duress defense, but also gave additional instructions arising from an earlier case, People v. Pena, 197 Cal. Rptr. 264 (1983), that were purportedly on a defense of “justification/duress.” The jury convicted Heath of burglary. Heath appealed, asserting that the Pena instructions were in fact instructions on the defense of necessity, not duress, and that the additional instructions had misled the jury.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Baxter, J.)

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