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REVERSED: Denial of SB 1437 Petition

California v. Henley Docket: D079001 (Fourth Appellate District), Opinion Date: December 5, 2022. In 1992, a jury convicted Heather Henley of: (1) murder; (2) two counts of robbery; and (3) assault with a firearm. However, the jury found not true the allegation that Henley personally used a firearm in connection with counts 1 through 3. The court sentenced Henley to prison for 25 years to life on count 1 plus an additional term of six years for counts 2 through 4. Henley appealed, and the Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment. In 2019, Henley petitioned for resentencing under California Penal Code section 1172.6 as to her murder conviction. The superior court appointed counsel, determined that Henley had made the requisite prima facie showing under the statute, and issued an order to show cause. The parties agreed that Henley’s original murder conviction was premised on a felony murder theory and that her eligibility for section 1172.6 relief was contingent on whether the evidence showed she was a major participant in the robbery who acted with reckless indifference to human life. After holding an evidentiary hearing in 2021, the superior court found that Henley was not entitled to relief because the prosecution proved beyond a reasonable doubt that she was a major participant who acted with reckless indifference to human life. Henley appealed, contending the court improperly found that she personally used a firearm in contradiction to the not-true finding of the jury during her 1992 trial. She also argued substantial evidence did not support the court's finding that she was not entitled to relief. The Court of Appeal agreed that the trial court prejudicially erred in finding that Henley personally used a firearm during the robbery. As such, that portion of the trial court’s order denying Henley’s petition under section 1172.6 was reversed. However, the Court of Appeal did not agree with Henley that the court’s findings were not supported by substantial evidence. As such, the case was remanded back to the superior court to hold another section 1172.6 evidentiary hearing.

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