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In March, a California appeals court overturned the murder conviction of a man based upon the trial judge's jury instructions. A seasoned Santa Cruz criminal defense attorney knows that misleading jury instructions in a criminal case can deny a defendant the right to a fair trial.

The First District Court of Appeal overturned the murder conviction of a San Francisco man, concluding the definition of the lesser offense of manslaughter at trial may have misled the jury. The California Supreme Court will now weigh the matter. The high court recently agreed to review the appellate court ruling.

Prosecutors had claimed the man stabbed a 28-year-old woman to death in front of her children in October, 2000. The man was charged with murder and the case went to trial before a jury in 2008. The man argued to the jury the allegations could only support a charge of voluntary manslaughter. A conviction for voluntary manslaughter would have only exposed the accused to a sentence of three to eleven years. The man ultimately was convicted of murder and sentenced to 16 years to life in prison.

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