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Appellate Court Reverses Denial of 1437 Relief

California v. Guiffreda Docket: D079834 (Fourth Appellate District), Opinion Date: January 3, 2023. Defendant-appellant Michelle Guiffreda appealed an order denying her petition for resentencing on a 2004 conviction for second-degree murder under California Penal Code section 1170.95 (now section 1172.6). After an evidentiary hearing, the trial court found there was insufficient evidence of malice aforethought to establish Guiffreda’s liability as a direct aider and abettor to murder. However, the court denied her petition based on a felony murder theory after finding beyond a reasonable doubt under current law that: (1) Guiffreda was a major participant in the underlying robbery which led to the victim’s death; and (2) she acted with reckless indifference to human life. Guiffreda contended on appeal that the record did not support the trial court’s major participant and reckless indifference findings. Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the trial court’s ruling, the Court of Appeal concurred there was insufficient evidence to support the finding that Guiffreda acted with reckless indifference to human life. Consequently, the Court did not resolve whether she was a major participant. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded to the trial court with directions to vacate her murder conviction and conduct further proceedings.

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