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Name: In re Loza
Case #: G054978
District 4 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 09/28/2018

Premeditated murder conviction reversed where record did not reflect whether the verdict was based on a theory of direct aiding and abetting or a natural and probable consequences theory, which was invalidated in People v. Chiu (2014) 59 Cal.4th 155. In 2004, Cesar Loza handed a gun to a fellow gang member, who shot and killed a rival gang member. Loza was convicted of first degree premeditated murder. On appeal, he argued the instructions allowed the jury to convict him on an invalid theory of natural and probable consequences rather than a direct aider and abettor theory. Held: Reversed. An aider and abettor can be held liable for crimes that he intentionally aids and abets (direct aider and abettor liability), and for any crimes that were not intended, but were reasonably foreseeable, under the natural and probable consequences doctrine. In Chiu, the Supreme Court held that premeditation and deliberation is uniquely subjective. Under the natural and probable consequences theory, the connection between the aider and abettor’s culpability and the perpetrator’s premeditative state is too attenuated to impose liability for first degree murder. (Chiu, supra, 59 Cal.4th at p. 166.) Thus, an aider and abettor’s liability for premeditated murder “must be based on direct aiding and abetting principles.” (Id. at p. 159.) Here, the trial court instructed on a valid aider and abettor theory of first degree murder. It also instructed on an invalid theory based on natural and probable consequences. The prosecutor relied upon both theories at trial, and there was no basis in the record to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that the jury relied on the legally valid theory. Therefore, reversal was required under the Chapman standard. [Editor’s Note: The trial court was also ordered to conduct a hearing to allow the parties to make a record for any future youth related parole reviews. (See People v. Franklin (2016) 63 Cal.4th 261, 269.)]

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: