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Name: People v. Thomas
Case #: C097130
Opinion Date: 09/07/2023
Attorney: Brad Poore
Summary

The trial court sentenced defendant to life without the possibility of parole for a crime committed in 1997. Appellant filed a Penal Code section 1172.6 petition that was denied at the prima facie stage. The Court of Appeal reversed and remanded for an evidentiary hearing, finding that at the prima facie stage, the court could not conclude defendant was the actual killer without engaging in impermissible factfinding. Under two separate theories, felony murder and the natural and probable consequences doctrine, the jury could have found defendant guilty of murder without finding he was the actual killer or acted with the intent to kill. Further, the instructions allowed the jury to find the robbery murder special circumstance true solely based on the fact the murder was committed to carry out the attempted robbery, facilitate escape, or avoid detection, regardless of who was the actual killer and whether defendant had the intent to kill.