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Insufficient Evidence of Reckless Indifference To Human Life

In re Moore Court: California Courts of Appeal, Docket: A154032(First Appellate District), Opinion Date: August 31, 2021. Moore was convicted of murder (Penal Code 187) and robbery (section 211); a jury found true the special circumstance that the murder was committed during a robbery (190.2(a)(17)). Moore sought habeas relief, challenging the sufficiency of the evidence for the robbery-murder special-circumstance finding. The California Supreme Court ordered the court of appeal to consider “whether [Moore’s] youth at the time of the offense should be one of the factors considered under” precedent in which the California Supreme Court examined the felony-murder special circumstance, Penal Code 190.2(d). Under that provision, a person who is guilty of murder but is not the “actual killer” and who aids or abets the commission of certain felonies that result in death may be sentenced to death or life without the possibility of parole if that person is a “major participant” and acts with “reckless indifference to human life.” On remand, the court of appeal vacated the conviction. A defendant’s youth at the time of the offense should be a factor in determining whether that defendant acted with reckless indifference to human life under section 190.2(d). Considering the totality of the circumstances, including the fact that Moore was only 16 at the time of his offenses, the court found insufficient evidence to establish that Moore acted with the requisite reckless indifference to human life.

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