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Name: People v. Rivera
Case #: C074297
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 03/09/2015
Summary

Defendant may not be convicted of first degree murder based on evidence that the murder was the natural and probable consequence of an uncharged conspiracy with the target crime of discharging a firearm at an occupied vehicle. A jury found codefendants Rivera and Huante guilty of first degree murder for the shooting death of Flores in retaliation for stolen drugs. Rivera was the actual shooter. On appeal, Huante contended his conviction for first degree murder of Flores had to be reversed because the instructions impermissibly allowed the jury to find him guilty if it found the target crime of the uncharged conspiracy was discharging a firearm at an occupied vehicle, and the first degree murder was a natural and probable consequence of the target crime. The argument was based on People v. Chiu (2014) 59 Cal.4th 155, which held that an aider and abettor may not be convicted of first degree premeditated murder under the natural and probable consequences doctrine. Held: Huante’s first degree murder conviction reversed. Given the reasons articulated by the Court in Chiu for limiting aider and abettor liability under the natural and probable consequences doctrine to second degree murder, and the analogy between aiding and abetting and conspiracy, the trial court erred in instructing the jury it could reach a verdict of first degree murder for Huante if it found that the target crime of the uncharged conspiracy was discharging a firearm at an occupied vehicle, and that the first degree murder was a natural and probable consequence. The record shows the jury may have based its first degree premeditated murder verdict for Huante on the natural and probable consequences theory, and therefore the instructional error was prejudicial. The court held that on remand, the prosecutor may either accept a reduction of the conviction to second degree murder or retry the first degree murder charge under a proper theory.