The prosecution of defendant for first degree murder when her codefendants were allowed to enter plea agreements for voluntary manslaughter convictions did not violate due process. A jury convicted Price of first degree special circumstance murder. She appealed, arguing, inter alia, that her prosecution for murder violated due process because it was both legally and factually irreconcilable with the prosecutor’s plea agreements with her codefendants, Fells and Brown, for voluntary manslaughter convictions, which were made in exchange for their testimony against Price. According to Price, by agreeing to the manslaughter convictions, the People acknowledged that the victim was shot in the heat of passion or in unreasonable self-defense. Held: Affirmed. Murder and voluntary manslaughter convictions are not legally inconsistent; nor are felony murder and voluntary manslaughter convictions. Voluntary manslaughter is a lesser included offense of murder, “the only difference between them is whether the defendant can prove the mitigating facts of provocation or unreasonable self-defense.” While voluntary manslaughter is not a lesser included offense of felony murder, in pre-trial stages, the information available to the prosecutor may support both felony murder and voluntary manslaughter. Furthermore, Price’s murder conviction was not factually inconsistent with Fells’ and Brown’s voluntary manslaughter convictions, as the evidence against Price was stronger at the time of the plea agreements. Even if Price’s murder conviction and the plea agreements were factually irreconcilable, the inconsistency was justified by the different evidence against the defendants and the uncertainty that Fells and Brown would be convicted at a trial. There is no evidence that the prosecutor in this case took inconsistent positions in bad faith. (Cf. In re Sakarias (2005) 35 Cal.4th 140.) Furthermore, assuming error, Fells and Brown benefitted from it, but Price was not prejudiced. There was ample evidence to convict her of felony murder.
The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/A140775.PDF