A defendant seeking retroactive relief under Senate Bill No. 1437 must first file a Penal Code section 1170.95 petition in the trial court before seeking relief on direct appeal. Martinez, tried with a codefendant, was convicted of first degree murder and arson. He appealed. While the appeal was pending, SB 1437 was signed into law. Martinez filed a supplemental brief, asserting that the new law applied retroactively on direct appeal notwithstanding the bill’s enactment of a petition procedure in the trial court. Held: Affirmed. SB 1437 amended the felony murder rule and the natural and probable consequences doctrine, as it relates to murder, to ensure that murder liability is not imposed on a person who is not the actual killer, did not act with the intent to kill, or was not a major participant in the underlying felony who acted with reckless indifference to human life. The bill added section 1170.95, which provides a procedure by which those convicted of murder can seek retroactive relief by filing a petition in the trial court if certain conditions are met. After a prima facie showing, a hearing is held to determine whether to vacate the conviction and recall the sentence. The prosecutor and the petitioner may rely on the record of conviction or offer new or additional evidence to meet their respective burdens. Here, the court rejected Martinez’s position that the retroactive application of the amended law may be addressed on direct appeal because doing so would circumvent the petition and hearing procedure. Analogizing to Proposition 36 and Proposition 47 petitions, the court concluded the Legislature intended for persons seeking the ameliorative benefits of SB 1437 to proceed via the petitioning procedure because section 1170.95 provides the parties an opportunity to go beyond the original record, a step unavailable on direct appeal. Defendants must file a petition in the trial court to seek retroactive relief under SB 1437 and may seek a stay of the pending appeal for the purpose of permitting the trial court to rule on the petition.
The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/B287255M.PDF