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Name: People v. Cruz
Case #: G057564
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 03/18/2012

SB 1437’s substantial amendment of the felony murder rule and murder based on the natural and probable consequences doctrine is constitutional and does not impermissibly amend Proposition 7 or Proposition 115. In 2010, Cruz was convicted of second degree murder for the death of a man who was shot by one of Cruz’s companions after Cruz and the victim engaged in a fist fight. The prosecution had pursued alternative theories of liability, including liability based on the natural and probable consequences doctrine. In 2018, the Legislature passed SB 1437, which substantially restricted application of both the felony murder rule and the natural and probable consequences doctrine in murder cases to ensure a person’s culpability for murder is premised upon that person’s own actions and subjective mens rea. Cruz petitioned for resentencing (Pen. Code, § 1170.95). The prosecution moved to dismiss the petition, arguing SB 1437 impermissibly amended two voter-approved initiatives: Propositions 7 and 115. The trial court found SB 1437 unconstitutional. Cruz appealed. Held: Reversed. The opinion in this case was issued that same day as People v. Solis (2020) 46 Cal.App.5th 762 and the reasoning in this opinion is very similar to the reasoning in Solis. The Court of Appeal concluded SB 1437 does not amend Proposition 7 because it does not alter the penalties for murder, it merely amends the elements of murder. Similarly, with respect to Proposition 115, SB 1437 addressed the circumstances under which an aider and abettor should be liable for first degree felony murder; it did not alter the list of predicate offenses on which first degree felony murder may be based. As Proposition 115 did not specifically authorize or prohibit restrictions on the application of the first degree felony murder rule to accomplices, SB 1437 did not improperly amend Proposition 115 by adding such restrictions to felony murder in Penal Code section 189. [Editor’s Notes: The Orange County District Attorney represented the People’s interests in this appeal. The Attorney General filed an amicus curiae brief defending the constitutionality of SB 1437. (2) The court agreed with People v. Superior Court (Gooden) (2019) 42 Cal.App.5th 270 and People v. Lamoureux (2019) 42 Cal.App.5th 241.]