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Name: People v. Gaillard (2024) 99 Cal.App.5th 1206
Case #: D082071
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 02/26/2024

Defendant’s guilty plea for aiding and abetting voluntary manslaughter did not conclusively establish his ineligibility for relief under Penal Code section 1172.6 at the prima facie stage. Defendant appealed from the denial (at the prima facie stage) of his section 1172.6 petition for resentencing on a 2014 voluntary manslaughter conviction. He had admitted that he aided and abetted the voluntary manslaughter. The record of conviction did not include any of the underlying facts because defendant pleaded guilty before the preliminary hearing. Held: Reversed. First, the trial court erred to the extent it ruled that “if you’re an aider and abettor, you’re not allowed relief from this law.” Section 1172.6 applies to those who were charged with murder and could have been prosecuted under the natural and probable consequences (NPC) doctrine, which is one theory of aiding and abetting. Second, the trial court erred by ruling that defendant necessarily admitted his guilt on a theory of direct aiding and abetting. Defendant merely admitted his guilt as an aider and abettor of voluntary manslaughter in generic terms. Nothing in the record of conviction conclusively established that defendant admitted his guilt on a direct aiding and abetting theory, rather than an NPC theory. Finally, even if defendant had admitted his guilt of voluntary manslaughter on a direct aiding and abetting theory, that still would not refute his allegation that he could not presently be convicted of murder on a direct aiding and abetting theory. To be convicted of murder as a direct aider and abettor, the defendant must personally harbor malice aforethought. But malice is not an element of voluntary manslaughter and he only admitted at the plea hearing that he acted “without malice.” Defendant’s guilty plea therefore does not establish that he acted with the malice required as a direct aider and abettor of murder.