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2nd Appellate District Reverses Denial of 1170.95 Petition

People v. Mejorado Docket: B308926 (Second Appellate District), Opinion Date: January 3, 2022. Mejorado, convicted in 2009 of the first-degree murder of Flores, and of the later first-degree murders of two others, is serving three terms of life without parole, plus more for various enhancements. The jury found true the special circumstance allegation that Mejorado committed the Flores murder while engaged in a robbery. The jury could not determine whether Mejorado or his companion was the actual killer, but necessarily found Mejorado either acted with intent to kill or acted with reckless indifference to human life and was a major participant in the robbery. In 2011, the court of appeal affirmed. In 2020, Mejorado sought resentencing under Penal Code section 1170.95. The trial court denied the petition without appointing counsel, holding that the jury’s special circumstance finding barred relief. The court of appeal reversed. A case decided after the denial of Mejorado’s motion established the trial court’s failure to appoint counsel under these circumstances was state law error. The error was prejudicial. A special circumstance finding is not a categorical bar to resentencing relief in every case. The facts recited in the 2011 court of appeal opinion do not establish, as a matter of law, that Mejorado acted with reckless indifference to human life during the course of the Flores robbery and murder, as that term has been construed in subsequent opinions. #sb1437 #recklessindifference #specialcircumstances

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