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Name: People v. Jessee
Case #: G046881
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 11/25/2013

In case of murder for financial gain, life insurance proceeds and other money paid to killer is appropriately awarded to victim’s estate. Jessee was convicted of conspiracy to kill her husband, Jack, and special circumstance murder for financial gain. At sentencing the trial court ordered her to pay life insurance proceeds, money from Jack’s 401k, and one-half the proceeds from the sale of the community home, to the victim’s estate. It also awarded restitution to Allstate Insurance for a fraudulent automobile theft claim. On appeal, she challenged the trial court’s restitution awards. Held: Reversed in part. For purposes of restitution in criminal cases, a “victim” includes an estate. (Pen. Code, § 1202.4, subd. (k)(2).) In People v. Runyan (2012) 54 Cal.4th 849, the court held the decedent’s estate was not the “direct victim” of a gross vehicular manslaughter and was not entitled to post-death losses because it was not an entity against which the defendant committed his offense. However, when the actual crime victim has died, the estate, acting for the victim, steps into the shoes of the victim to collect restitution due to the decedent, as a direct crime victim. Here, restitution for the life insurance proceeds, the 401k plan, and proceeds from the sale of the family home was properly awarded. Jessee was not entitled to assets or other financial benefits she may have obtained as a result of Jack’s death because she murdered him. (See Prob. Code, § 250 et seq.) Jack’s estate was a direct victim of Jessee’s murder for financial gain because one of the goals of the crime was to obtain Jack’s assets, which would become part of his estate when he died. The estate was also entitled to restitution under the alternative rationale in Runyan. When Jack died, his estate stepped into his shoes to collect the economic losses he incurred upon death as a result of his wife’s crimes.

Because Jessee was not convicted of insurance fraud, the restitution awarded to Allstate Insurance Company for the fraudulent automobile claim must be reversed. Section 1202.4, subdivision (a)(1) authorizes an award of restitution to a crime victim “from a defendant convicted of that crime.” Therefore, because Jessee was not convicted of insurance fraud, the restitution awarded to Allstate Insurance for the fraudulent automobile theft claim was reversed.