A person charged with murder and convicted of voluntary manslaughter pursuant to a plea agreement cannot invoke the resentencing provision of SB 1437. In 2013, Flores and codefendants were charged with the murder of John Doe during the commission of a robbery. Flores pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter as part of plea agreement. In 2019, the trial court denied her petition for resentencing under SB 1437, finding the resentencing provision (Pen. Code, § 1170.95) was available only to qualifying persons convicted of murder, not voluntary manslaughter. Flores appealed. Held: Affirmed. SB 1437 was enacted for the express purpose of amending the felony murder rule and the natural and probable consequences doctrine as it relates to murder. SB 1437 added section 1170.95, which permits a person to petition the sentencing court to have a murder conviction under one of these theories vacated and to be resentenced. Through its repeated and exclusive references to murder, the plain language of section 1170.95 limits relief only to qualifying persons who were convicted of murder. Had the Legislature intended to make section 1170.95 available to defendants convicted of manslaughter, it easily could have done so. In addition, the Court of Appeal declined to broaden the reach of section 1170.95 because Flores did not establish absurdity to justify straying from the unambiguous language of section 1170.95. Because of the difference between murder sentences and manslaughter sentences, the court found no merit to Flores’s claim that successful petitioners would be released from custody while those convicted of manslaughter remained incarcerated. It was reasonable for the Legislature to limit the scope of reform measures to maintain the state’s financial integrity.
The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/archive/D075826.PDF