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Murder Conviction Reversed Under SB 1437

People v. Thomas Court: California Courts of Appeal, Docket: B298946 (Second Appellate District), Opinion Date: May 28, 2021. Defendant, along with his codefendants, were tried for murder in violation of Penal Code section 187, subdivision (a); shooting at an inhabited dwelling, in violation of section 246; and felony evading in violation of Vehicle Code section 2800.3, subdivision (a). Defendant was convicted on all counts and the jury found the gang allegation under section 186.22, subdivision (b) true for the shooting at an inhabited dwelling charge. The trial court sentenced defendant to 25 years to life for the murder, 15 years to life for the shooting at an inhabited dwelling, and seven years for the felony evading, to be served consecutively. The Court of Appeal concluded that the trial court erroneously denied defendant's new trial motion because prior to the sentencing, Senate Bill No. 1437 rendered his felony-murder conviction invalid. Therefore, the court reversed the murder conviction based on defendant's SB 1437 contention. Consequently, the issue regarding whether the trial court committed instructional error on the accomplice/codefendant instruction has been rendered moot. Furthermore, defendant's challenge to the jury instruction as part of his additional contention that the denial of his severance motion violated due process lacked merit. The court also concluded that there was no prosecutorial misconduct; counsel for a codefendant did not commit pervasive misconduct denying defendant due process of law; the joint trial did not ultimately result in a denial of defendant's right to due process; the trial court did not abuse its discretion by excluding lay opinion on gang territory; and claim of cumulative error rejected. Accordingly, the court affirmed in all other respects.

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