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Name: People v. Aleo
Case #: F080005
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 5 DCA
Opinion Date: 05/27/2021
Summary

When determining whether a defendant has established a prima facie case under Penal Code section 1170.95, the trial court should assume all facts stated in the petition are true, and the trial court should not evaluate the credibility of the petition’s assertions, unless the assertions are untrue as a matter of law. Aleo and a codefendant were found guilty of murder during commission of an armed burglary and robbery in 1982. The jury found true that Aleo was armed with a firearm and his codefendant personally used a firearm. In 2019, Aleo submitted a petition for resentencing pursuant to section 1170.95. The district attorney conceded Aleo was not the actual killer, but argued Aleo was a major participant who acted with reckless indifference to human life. The trial court denied relief. Held: Reversed and remanded to issue an order to show cause and to hold an evidentiary hearing. The court noted a current disagreement among the Courts of Appeal regarding how to determine whether a petitioner has made the prima facie showing under section 1170.95, subdivision (c). Under People v. Drayton (2020) 47 Cal.App.5th 965 the trial court should assume all facts stated in the section 1170.95 petition are true. The trial court should not evaluate the credibility of the petition’s assertions, but it need not credit factual assertions that are untrue as a matter of law. Most Courts of Appeal have agreed with Drayton. However, in People v. Garcia (2020) 57 Cal.App.5th 100, the Second District held that the trial court should determine whether substantial evidence supports the conclusion the petitioner could still be convicted of murder following the amendments to Penal Code sections 188 and 189. Here, the parties did not dispute that Drayton states the appropriate standard; the Court of Appeal agreed. The People conceded Aleo made a prima facie showing of eligibility for relief, the record does not indisputably establish his ineligibility, and the case should be remanded for the trial court to issue an order to show cause and to hold a hearing. [Editor’s Note: In the trial court, despite Aleo’s pro per briefing to the contrary, defense counsel conceded, “[I]t appears that under the new law, they do not meet the prima facie case, and we submit that they are major participants.” The Court of Appeal noted that even if it were to accept as true defense counsel’s concession, the trial court also had to conclude that Aleo acted with reckless indifference to human life in order to render him categorically ineligible for relief. Since this was not established as a matter of law, the Court of Appeal did not have to reach the issue of whether Aleo received ineffective assistance of counsel.]