Senate Bill 775: What It Means for Those Wrongly Convicted of Murder

December 22, 2021 by Leonard Sawyer in California  Criminal Defense  
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Senate Bill 775 SB amends Senate Bill 1437 SB; Helping to vacate convictions under the Felony Murder Statute that used the Natural and Probable Consequence Theory

Senate Bill 1437

How does Senate Bill 1437 help vacate Felony Murder Convictions?

Under Senate Bill 1437 SB, a person wrongfully convicted on a charge of First-Degree or Second-Degree Murder where the prosecution sought a Felony murder conviction based on Natural and Probable Consequence Doctrine (NPCD) theory can seek a resentencing hearing, by petitioning with the sentencing court to have their conviction vacated.

The important part of Senate Bill 1437 SB is the petition for relief. A person who is convicted or is awaiting sentencing can file a petition to have their sentence reviewed and possibly vacated. The petitioner must make a prima facie case to be granted a rehearing on the sentence of the petitioner’s conviction. To start, the petitioner after conviction has 30 days to file a petition for review. The prosecution has 60 days to respond. The petitioner has 30 days after to respond, if necessary, to the prosecution’s reply.

The prima facie case requires the petitioner to why they qualify for a rehearing. The sentencing court must wait until the petitioner has filed a petition and responded to the prosecution before making a determination. The sentencing court must allow petitioner adequate time to seek counsel if one is so desired.

Senate Bill 775

What has Senate Bill 775 done to modify Senate Bill 1437 to make the reviewing hearing more efficient?

Senate Bill 775 SB expanded Senate Bill 1437 SB and included those who were charged with attempted murder and manslaughter and convicted for Felony Murder under an NPCD theory to have their conviction vacated. Senate Bill 775 SB also focuses on aider and abettors where the participants did not have a significant role in its result. And whose conduct did not illustrate the specific intent to kill, or knowledge that the subsequent acts after the participation would elevate to a felonious killing of another but was convicted for felony murder under a NPCD theory.

What makes Senate Bill 775 SB unique is that it requires the sentencing court to state on the record why it feels the petitioner has not presented enough facts supporting the petitioner’s desire to have a conviction vacated. In addition, there is not a statutory limit to how many times the petitioner can amend the petition with, or without representation of counsel. What Senate Bill 775 SB more unique is the option for direct appeal for a petitioner whose petition is denied.

Defining Felony Murder (PC 189)

What is the definition of Felony Murder under Penal Code 189 PC?

Under the Felony Murder Doctrine, malice is not required to be proven by the prosecution. All murders that are committed in the commission of an inherently dangerous felony will be convicted of First-Degree Murder toward the participants of the targeted offense: the inherently dangerous felony. Examples of inherently dangerous felonies are, kidnapping, robbery, rape, sodomy, arson, carjacking and burglary.

At this point the malice is imputed without it being proved toward a First-Degree Murder conviction because of the strict liability nature of the offenses listed as inherently dangerous felony. In other words, upon the arrest of a crime that listed as inherently felonious that procured a death of an innocent bystander, the prosecution can pursue a conviction for Felony Murder where the penalties equate to First-Degree Murder and do not need to prove malice as it is implied. Or Second-Degree Murder, where malice needs to be proven when the crime is an inherently dangerous felony; but the difference is that malice must be proven.

The Felony Murder designation is an enhancement that garnishes a high penalty at the sentencing stages, whether the conviction is for First-Degree or Second-Degree Murder.

What crimes are considered inherently dangerous felonies?

Examples of inherently dangerous crimes are:

Essentially any act in the furtherance of a crime whose conduct creates a high disregard to human life.

There is Non-Statutory Felony Murder enhancement as applied to a Second-Degree Murder conviction but as distinguished from First Degree Felony Murder the prosecution must prove the act, or crime, in question qualify as inherently dangerous. There is the required need to prove up Malice. The act itself must be seriously malevolent or fraught with violence: evading a police officer at high speeds.

What is the definition of the Natural and Probable Consequence Doctrine?

The standard for the Natural and Probable Consequence Doctrine to apply is that “a reasonable person in similar circumstances should have known that the circumstances emitting original crime, would have procured other crime”.
Something is natural and probable if a person knows that the result is likely to happen if nothing else unusual happens that affects the results. This doctrine applies not only to those who specifically intended to participate in the targeted and desired its result, but also to co-conspirator, aiders or abettors who overtly facilitated the targeted offense whose encouragement inferred their desiring the targeted offense’s result.

This is a theory from which a First Degree or Second-Degree Felony Murder enhancement can be established from an arrest, that the prosecution is attempting to get a conviction attempting for penalties during the sentencing phases.

Need Consutation?

If you are charged with First-Degree or Second-Degree Felony Murder under the Natural Probable Consequence Doctrine and need assistance with a Senate Bill 775 PC or Senate Bill 1437 hearing call The Esfandi Law Group.

Contact Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Seppi Esfandi, principal attorney of The Esfandi Law Group.

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Seppi Esfandi is an Expert Criminal Defense Attorney who has over 20 years of practice defending a variety of criminal cases.

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