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Name: People v. Alaybue
Case #: H047221
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 6 DCA
Opinion Date: 06/25/2020

The trial court erred in finding SB 1437 unconstitutional (the court addressed Propositions 7 and 115). In 2006, Alaybue pleaded no contest to two counts of second degree murder and two counts of attempted murder. In 2019, he petitioned the trial court to vacate his murder and attempted murder convictions under SB 1437. The trial court denied the petition, finding SB 1437 was unconstitutional because it impermissibly amended Propositions 7 and 115. The court also found SB 1437 did not apply to the crime of attempted murder. Alaybue appealed. Held: Reversed and remanded (as to murder convictions). Proposition 7 increased the punishment for first and second degree murder by amending Penal Code section 190, but general references to first and second degree murder did not incorporate those definitions as they existed when Proposition 7 was enacted. SB 1437 altered the elements of first and second degree murder, not the attendant punishment, and thus did not unconstitutionally amend Proposition 7. Proposition 115 amended Penal Code section 189 to add five additional serious felonies to the list of predicate felonies for first degree felony murder, and section 190.2 by imposing a special actus reus and specific mens rea requirement to expand the scope of capital liability in certain felony murder cases. SB 1437 amended section 189, subdivision (e) to impose actus reus and mens rea requirements for accomplice liability for first degree felony murder similar to those in Penal Code section 190.2. This is a related but distinct area of the law that the Legislature was free to address. There is no basis to conclude voters intended the language of section 190.2 could never be added to section 189.

SB 1437 does not violate separation of powers principles by interfering with the executive’s prosecutorial functions and the finality of judgment. The District Attorney argued that SB 1437 violates separation of powers principles by interfering with the executive’s prosecutorial functions and the finality of judgment. As to prosecutorial functions, the District Attorney pointed to section 1170.95’s provision requiring the sentencing court to “redesignate[] [the murder conviction] as the target offense or underlying felony for resentencing purposes.” He contended that “[t]o permit the judiciary to select from an array of possible crimes is not authorized” and thus violative of the separation of powers doctrine. The Court of Appeal disagreed. “The plain language of section 1170.95, subdivision (e) permits the trial court to redesignate the vacated conviction as either ‘the target offense,’ in cases involving the natural and probable consequences doctrine, or the ‘underlying felony,’ in cases involving the felony-murder rule. In both instances, a prosecutor has already exercised his or her discretion to ‘control and determine whom to charge and what charges to bring,’ because the prosecutor necessarily identified the target offense or predicate felony in the underlying prosecution.” The Court of Appeal also concluded section 1170.95 represents an appropriate exercise of the Legislature’s power to permit judicial revision of final judgments to reduce punishment for those convicted of murder offenses under the felony murder rule or natural and probable consequences doctrine. (Citing and quoting People v. Lamoureux (2019) 42 Cal.App.5th 241.) [Editor’s Notes: (1) The Santa Clara County District Attorney filed an amicus brief arguing SB 1437 is unconstitutional. (2) The Court of Appeal also held that SB 1437 does not apply to attempted murder. This issue is currently pending in the California Supreme Court: (1) Does Senate Bill No. 1437 (Stats. 2018, ch. 1015) apply to attempted murder liability under the natural and probable consequences doctrine? (2) In order to convict an aider and abettor of attempted willful, deliberate and premeditated murder under the natural and probable consequences doctrine, must a premeditated attempt to murder have been a natural and probable consequence of the target offense? In other words, should People v. Favor (2012) 54 Cal.4th 868 be reconsidered in light of Alleyne v. United States (2013) 50 U.S. 99 and People v. Chiu (2014) 59 Cal.4th 155? (People v. Lopez (2019) 38 Cal.App.5th 1087, review granted 11/13/2019 (S258175/B271516).)]