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The Champion

September/October 2003 , Page 42 

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Third party guilt: The crucial role of defense theory instructions

By Thomas Lundy

Read more Jury Instruction columns.

When the defense relies on a theory of third party guilt, the jury may improperly view the trial as a question of whether or not the third party has been proven guilty. Hence, it is crucial that the instructions caution the jurors against shifting the burden of proof to the defendant.

Right of the accused to rely on third party guilt as a defense theory and to present evidence of third party guilt

Evidence that another person committed the charged crime is “generally recognized as relevant evidence under fundamental standards.” Larimore v. State, 877 S.W.2d 570, 575 (Ariz. 1994) ; see also United States v. Stevens, 935 F.2d 1380, 1401-03 (3rd Cir. 1991); United States v. Armstrong, 621 F.2d 951, 953 (9th Cir. 1980); U.S. v. Calle, 822 F.2d 1016, 1021 (11th Cir. 1987) (third party guilt is substantive defense which cannot be limited by trial court pursuant to rules governing impeachment); People v. Edelbacher, 47 Cal.3d 983, 1017; 254 Cal.Rptr.586 (1989); People v.

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