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Sufficiency of the Evidence–Conspiracy to Commit Murder for the Benefit of a Gang

Case Name: People v. Ware (2022) 14 Cal.5th 151
Case #: S263923
Last Updated: December 1, 2022

Does sufficient evidence support Hoskins’s Count 1 conviction for conspiracy to commit murder? [Editor’s Note: Count 1 in this case alleged that multiple defendants conspired to commit murder (Pen. Code, §§ 182, subd. (a), 187) for the benefit of a criminal street gang (§ 186.22, subd. (b)(1)) between January 1, 2012, and April 23, 2014. On appeal, it was undisputed that the prosecution relied exclusively on circumstantial evidence and presented no direct evidence of a conspiracy to commit murder. The prosecution failed to prove Hoskins was a direct participant or aider and abettor in any of the shootings. However, the Court of Appeal concluded sufficient circumstantial evidence supported the conviction. The court reasoned evidence from Hoskins’s social media account (which contained references to killing and Crip killing) when viewed with the evidence of the coconspirators’ activities and Hoskins’s relationship to the coconspirators, constituted sufficient evidence from which jurors could conclude that Hoskins knew of the conspiracy and had the deliberate, knowing, and specific intent to join the conspiracy.]

Held:

Defendant Nicholas Hoskins was charged with and convicted of conspiracy to commit murder, for which he was sentenced to 25 years to life. The charged conspiracy consisted of a two-year-long agreement among at least 20 gang members to kill members of rival gangs, without agreement as to any specific times, persons, or places where killing would take place. There was no evidence that Hoskins had committed or participated in any act of violence. The prosecution instead sought to tie Hoskins to the charged conspiracy primarily through evidence of his gang membership, access to weapons, and social media posts celebrating violence against rival gangs. Hoskins argues this evidence is insufficient to support a conviction for conspiracy to commit murder. Reviewing the entire record in light of established principles of conspiracy law, we agree. We reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeal and remand for further proceedings.

This case was decided on 12/1/2022.

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