A Hypothetical Scenario:
Tim and Tom decide to rob a T-Mobile Store. Tim uses a gun to intimidate one of the store employees. While forcing the employee to place items in the bag, the employee tries to get the gun away from Tim, the armed robber. During the scuffle the employee is shot and killed. According to old California law, BOTH Tim AND TOM would be equally charged with murder and face life in prison.
But Tom did not even have a weapon?!?
This was the old California law…Now, two bills are trying to correct a wrong in the criminal justice system—and forces prosecutors to consider mitigating circumstances.
OLD CALIFORNIA LAW
It used to be under California’s harsh felony murder rule—that where one of the perpetrators killed a victim of a robbery, and the other person involved in the robbery had nothing to do with the murder, BOTH would be equally charged with murder.
But that has changed as of recently:
The bills, Senate Bill 1437 and Senate Bill 775 allows a defendant convicted of murder, attempted murder or manslaughter, whose conviction is not final, to appeal for resentencing.
So what does this mean?
The bills allow a person who was charged with murder, but did not aid or abet in the murder, to petition the Court for resentencing.
This turns around the felony murder rule which allowed the District Attorneys, when a murder was committed in the commission of another felony (like a robbery), to charge all involved with murder—despite the others’ involvement being minimal.
Why is this significant? Because if someone did not have the intent to kill—they should not be convicted of murder.
SO WHAT IS SENATE BILL 1437?
Senate Bill 1437 passed about 3 years ago, disallowed District Attorneys from getting first or second-degree murder sentences for a felony murder where the person accused was not the actual killer—the one who did not pull the trigger in other words. The person with no intent to kill, not a major participant in the underlying felony and himself/herself did not act with reckless indifference to human life.
These two important bills changed the “natural and probable consequences doctrine” where malice was implied…simply meaning, if you were there, and were participating in the underlying felony—you’re equally culpable—because you should have known a murder was likely.
…AND WHAT IS 775?
So the biggest difference between the two bills? Put simply: Senate Bill 1437 had holes in it that Senate Bill 775 took care of—the biggest hole was SB 1437 only dealt with murder—while SB 775 applied to those convicted of manslaughter and attempted murder, NOT JUST MURDER.
It is important to note—relief is NOT guaranteed—an attorney will need to convince a judge that the client was NOT a “major participant who acted with reckless indifference to human life.”
It must be noted: a lot of clients ended up taking a plea deal to avoid a murder prosecution—and SB 775 tries to corrects that. If you think you or someone you know could get relief from this new bill, contact a qualified criminal defense attorney who can analyze the case and possibly get a greatly reduced sentence.