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Name: People v. Solis
Case #: G057510
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 03/18/2020

SB 1437 does not impermissibly amend prior voter initiatives that increased the punishment for murder (Prop. 7) and augmented the list of predicate offenses giving rise to first degree felony-murder liability (Prop. 115). In 1997, Solis was convicted of second degree murder based on the natural and probable consequences doctrine after gang members he was with threw objects at a vehicle in which the victim was riding, killing the victim. After SB 1437 passed, Solis filed a petition for resentencing (Pen. Code, § 1170.95). The trial court denied the petition on the ground SB 1437 was unconstitutional, concluding SB 1437 impermissibly amended Propositions 7 and 115. Solis appealed. Held: Reversed and remanded. A statute enacted by voter initiative may be amended or repealed by the Legislature only with the approval of the electorate, unless the initiative statute provides otherwise (Cal. Const., art. II, § 10, subd. (c)). The Legislature remains free to address a related but distinct area, or a matter an initiative measure does not specifically authorize or prohibit. SB 1437 does not address the same subject matter as Proposition 7, which provided greater penalties for those convicted of murder and increased the number of special circumstances. In contrast, SB 1437 changed the elements of murder by limiting the circumstances in which malice can be implied. Neither does it modify or amend Proposition 115, which added certain offenses to the list of predicate felonies on which felony murder liability may be based, because SB 1437 did not augment or restrict that list. It simply limits liability for felony murder and murder under the natural and probable consequences doctrine to an individual who (1) is the actual killer, (2) with the intent to kill, committed acts to assist in the commission of murder, or (3) was a major participant in the underlying felony and acted with reckless indifference to human life. [Editor’s Notes: (1) The Orange County District Attorney represented the People’s interests in this appeal. The Attorney General filed an amicus curiae brief defending the constitutionality of SB 1437. (2) The court noted that People v. Superior Court (Gooden) (2019) 42 Cal.App.5th 270 and People v. Lamoureux (2019) 42 Cal.App.5th 241 are consistent with its decision in this case. (3) The opinion in this case was filed concurrently with People v. Cruz (2020) 46 Cal.App.5th 740.]