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Name: People v. Superior Court (Ferraro)
Case #: C090226
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 07/07/2020

SB 1437 did not unconstitutionally amend Proposition 7 or Proposition 115. In 1990, real parties in interest Ferraro and Hunter pleaded guilty to second degree murder based on the same incident. In 2019, they each filed a Penal Code section 1170.95 petition to obtain resentencing under SB 1437. The District Attorney filed motions opposing the petitions, arguing that SB 1437 unconstitutionally amended two prior initiatives, Propositions 7 and 115. The trial court denied the motions. The District Attorney petitioned for writ of mandate. Held: Petitions denied. The Court of Appeal joined the other courts that have addressed this issue in concluding SB 1437 is not an invalid attempt to amend Proposition 115 or Proposition 7. In deciding whether a legislative act amends an initiative statute, courts look to whether it prohibits what the initiative authorizes, or authorizes what the initiative prohibits. SB 1437 did not address the punishment for murder, but amended the mental state requirements for that crime. In contrast to Proposition 7, SB 1437 neither sets nor prohibits a punishment for any type of murder. The punishment applicable to a murder conviction remains the same. The court also “agree[d] with those authorities that have concluded nothing in the text of Proposition 7 indicates the voters intended to freeze the definition of murder as it existed in 1978.” (Citing People v. Cruz (2020) 46 Cal.App.5th 740, 758, People v. Superior Court (Gooden) (2019) 42 Cal.App.5th 270, 283-284.) Proposition 115 expanded the list of special circumstances in Penal Code section 189 and SB 1437 left these changes intact. Nothing in Proposition 115 or its ballot materials indicate an intent to limit the ability of the Legislature to make the changes set forth in SB 1437.