Wednesday, November 20, 2019
In 2018, the Legislature passed and the Governor signed into law Senate Bill No. 1437 (Senate Bill 1437), legislation that prospectively amended the mens rea requirements for the offense of murder and restricted the circumstances under which a person can be liable for murder under the felony-murder rule or the natural and probable consequences doctrine. Senate Bill 1437 also established a procedure permitting certain qualifying persons who were previously convicted of felony murder or murder under the natural and probable consequences (NPC) doctrine to petition the courts that sentenced them to vacate their murder convictions and obtain re-sentencing on any remaining counts.
EDITORS OPINION: Two cases were recently heard for oral argument in the Court of Appeal 4th Dist., Div 1, on whether the new SB1437 law was Constitutional which would allow petitioners to go forward with their petition to be re-sentenced (on the merits of their case) at the trial court level. These two cases (below) are great for the defendants and inmates, but we must keep in mind that the DAs now have 10 days within which to seek review by the CA Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court grants review, your attorney cannot cite those cases (for the inmate) until the review is completed.
Please note that ---> The foregoing cases were in Court of Appeal 4th Dist., Div 1, which includes certain county such as San Diego, Riverside, etc. but not the Counties under the Court of Appeal 4th Dist., Div 3 (CA4-3) , such as Orange County, arguably those trial courts are not bound by these recent two decisions, but it is certainly persuasive. NOTE: There are also CA4-3 appeals pending, so time will tell.
The Petitioner, Patty Ann Lamoureux appealed an order denying her petition to vacate a first degree murder conviction and obtain re-sentencing under the procedures established by Senate Bill 1437. The trial court denied the petition after concluding the re-sentencing provision of Senate Bill 1437 was basically UNCONSTITUTIONAL basically agreeing with several reasons put forth by the District Attorney's office. In short SB1437:
The People urge us to affirm the denial order on (4) grounds that:
(1) Senate Bill 1437 invalidly amended Proposition 7;
(2) Senate Bill 1437 invalidly amended Proposition 115, a voter initiative that augmented the list of predicate offenses for first degree felony-murder liability (Prop. 115, as approved by voters, Primary Elec. (June 5, 1990) (Proposition 115));
(3) the re-sentencing provision violates the separation of powers doctrine; and/or
(4) the re-sentencing provision deprives crime victims the rights afforded them by the Victims' Bill of Rights Act of 2008, commonly known as Marsy's Law (Prop. 9, as approved by voters, Gen. Elec. (Nov. 4, 2008) (Proposition 9)).
Excerpt and short answer to the issues:
(1) The COA court explained in the Gooden decision, Senate Bill 1437 did not amend Proposition 7 because it did not "address the same subject matter [as Proposition 7].
(2) Furthermore Senate Bill 1437 "did not augment or restrict the list of predicate felonies on which felony murder may be based, which [was] the pertinent subject matter of Proposition 115." (Id. at p. __ [p. 22].) On this basis, we determined Senate Bill 1437 did not amend Proposition.
See full discussion on these 2 issues in the Gooden decision, thus the court concluded Senate Bill 1437 did not invalidly amend Proposition 7 or Proposition 115.
(3, 4) Lastly, In addressing the Separation of Power the court concludes --> In accordance with the Younger and Way decisions, it is clear to us that section 1170.95's interference with the executive's clemency authority, if any, is merely incidental to the main legislative purpose of Senate Bill 1437. Therefore, we conclude section 1170.95 does not impermissibly encroach upon the core functions of the executive.
A companion case, was Allen Gooden, in this case the People (DA) was the Petitioner in stating that the trial court erred in not finding SB 1437 unconstitutional (in simple terms). The trial court rejected the People's argument and denied the motions to dismiss. The People filed petitions for writs of mandate and/or prohibition in the COA court, asking to direct the trial court to vacate its order denying the motions to dismiss and enter a new order granting the DA's motions.
Here (in short), the Court of Appeal (COA), like the trial court, concluded Senate Bill 1437 was not an invalid amendment to Proposition 7 or Proposition 115 because it neither added to, nor took away from, the initiatives. The COA, therefore, denied the People's (DA) petitions for writ relief finding that SB 1437 was Constitutional and affirmed the lower trial court.
Finally, It is the opinion of this Editor that someone will ask the CA Supreme Ct. to Review these cases or other similarly situated, because the issue is so important, and likely to recur. Right now, it is prudent to wait and see what happens in other higher Courts, and potentially the CA Supreme.