On several occasions, we have discussed California’s “felony murder rule.” We have mentioned that recent changes in the law mean that some inmates (those who were a part of a crime that lead to death but didn’t commit a murder) stand to receive reduced sentences.
The old felony murder law allowed prosecutors to charge accomplices in crimes that resulted in murders with the same punishment as those who actually carried out the homicide. However, in an effort to create a fairer justice system, Senate Bill 1437 prohibits “a participant in the perpetration or attempted perpetration of one of the specified first-degree murder felonies in which a death occurs from being liable for murder.”
SB 1437 raises the standard that prosecutors must meet to prove that an accomplice defendant:
- Had an intent to kill,
- was a major participant in the killing;
- and behaved in a way that showed a reckless disregard for life.
Now, SB 1437 is being put to the test as those convicted under the old law petition the courts for re-sentencing, The Orange County Register reports. If successful, thousands of Californians could potentially receive lower terms in state prison.
Appeals Court Upholds SB 1437
One of the cases in question is that of Patty Ann Lamoureux. In 2013 she was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for the murder of Bradley Capen, according to the article. While evidence suggests she was involved in the crime, the Appeals Court determined that the evidence against Lamoureux “was insufficient to support the finding that Lamoureux had an intent to kill or acted with reckless indifference to human life.”
Therefore, Lamoureux shouldn’t have qualified for a life sentence. However, many prosecutors are not pleased with the new law; there is a chance that the California Supreme Court will review the appellate court’s decision.
It’s worth noting that prosecutors in Orange County challenged the new felony murder rule earlier this year. Moreover, Orange County Superior Court Judge Gregg L. Prickett ruled that the new law was unconstitutional. However, Presiding Justice Judith McConnell and Associate Justice Joan K. Irion of the state appeals court disagreed with Prickett’s argument in their written statement.
We will continue to follow this story as it develops.
Orange county Attorney at Law
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