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REVERSED: Court Cannot Deny 1170.95 Relief Based Upon Findings Inconsistent with Previous Acquittal

People v. Cooper Docket: A161632 (First Appellate District), Opinion Date: April 12, 2022. In 2004, Cooper was convicted of first-degree murder and kidnapping based on his participation in a 1995 killing. The jury found true that a principal was armed with a firearm during both offenses, but acquitted Cooper of the charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Cooper was sentenced to 58 years to life in prison. In 2019, Cooper sought relief under Penal Code section 1170.95, which altered liability for murder under the theories of felony murder and natural and probable consequences; eligible defendants may petition to have their murder convictions vacated and be resentenced. Cooper alleged he was convicted of felony murder and could no longer be convicted of murder under amended Penal Code section 189. The trial court found he had made a prima facie showing of entitlement to relief. The parties did not submit any new or additional evidence. The court then found beyond a reasonable doubt that Cooper was “a major participant” in the underlying kidnapping and acted “with reckless indifference to human life” under amended section 189(e)(3), precluding relief under section 1170.95.

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