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Last month, the California Supreme Court released its opinion in a case involving the defendant’s claim that he was entitled to a resentencing hearing under Senate Bill 1437 (SB 1437). The case illustrates the power of SB 1437, and what it means for those serving lengthy prison terms for California murder convictions.

The Facts

Back in 2014, the defendant was arrested for murder. The prosecution and defense offered very different versions of the events leading up to the victim’s death. According to the defense, a woman told the defendant that the victim had been raping her. At this point, the defendant punched the victim in the face, and the woman began attacking the victim with what the defendant thought was a sledgehammer. The defendant denies ever using a weapon to strike the victim, who later died. The defendant’s DNA was found on cigarette butts at the scene.

The defendant was arrested for first-degree murder, based largely on the woman’s testimony. He was convicted, but that conviction was later reduced to a second-degree murder conviction based on his initial appeal. However, after the passage of SB 1437, the defendant filed a post-conviction motion, asking the court to vacate his sentence for second-degree murder.

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Last month, the United States Supreme Court issued an opinion in an inmate’s claim that the conditions in which he was housed violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. While the case arose out of a federal prison in Texas, it illustrates the prison conditions throughout state and federal prisons in California. The opinion was a welcome step towards the High Court recognizing the inhumane conditions many men and women face after being convicted of a serious crime.

The Facts of the Case

In the case, the petitioner, Trent Taylor, was convicted of armed robbery and given a sentence of 11 years’ incarceration. While he was serving his sentence at a federal prison, Taylor alleged that prison staff kept him in unsanitary conditions that violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment.

On December 7, 2020, George Gascon was sworn in as the new District Attorney, defeating the previous District Attorney, Jackie Lacey. With his swearing in comes sweeping reforms and promises to re-open thousands of old cases. In his sweeping reforms, Mr. Gascon provides for retroactive applications, removing gun enhancements, gang enhancements, Three Strikes Law and materially changing juvenile laws.

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Traditionally, reforms are non-retroactive, meaning they do not apply to prior judgments or convictions. However, in Mr. Gascon’s sweeping reform, his office is now applying these reforms retroactively. That means that many of the new changes will affect old convictions from the past, regardless of when they took place.

In this post, Attorney Matthew Barhoma, founder of Barhoma Law, P.C. and California Criminal Appeals Attorney highlights the new changes and outlines how they will affect general cases. To learn how District Attorney, George Gascon’s, sweeping reform may affect your case, please consult with a Criminal Appeals and Post Conviction attorney with Barhoma Law, P.C. by calling our firm at 213-800-7664.

Celebrities have a lot of sway. They are frequently on television, and many of them have hundreds of thousands – or even millions – of followers on social media. In Kim Kardashian’s case, more than 67 million followers. Over the years, Kardashian has used her platform to advocate for criminal justice reform generally, as well as speaking out about specific injustices she sees in the system.

kim-kardashian-trump-300x200Kardashian’s most recent efforts relate to the scheduled execution of Brandon Bernard, a 40-year-old man who the government plans to execute on December 10, 2020. Bernard was arrested and charged with murder in what the prosecution described as a gang-related killing. Evidently, back in 1999, when Bernard was just 18 years old, he and several of his associates approached a vehicle with a couple inside. One of Bernard’s associates shot at the couple inside the car, and then Bernard lit the car on fire. One of the victims died of a gunshot wound and the other of smoke inhalation. Bernard was convicted in a Texas court and sentenced to die. He exhausted his appeals and post-conviction remedies, and is scheduled to be executed this month. According to Bernard, he lit the car on fire when his co-defendant held a gun to his head. As such, it was questionable to what extent he was involved.

Upon hearing about the case, Kardashian reached out to her millions of Twitter followers, asking them to sign a petition urging President Donald Trump to commute Bernard’s sentence to life in prison. Kardashian explained in a November 29th tweet, “while Brandon did participate in this crime, his role was minor compared to that of the other teens involved, two of whom are home from prison now.” She went on to explain that the crime was horrible, but that Bernard’s trial attorney failed to present important mitigating information that may have impacted the jury’s decision to render a death sentence. For example, the jury never heard that Bernard grew up in an abusive home, that his father left him to fend for himself on the streets, and that he was remorseful for his role in the killings. Kardashian also pointed out that the jury did not hear evidence regarding how Bernard’s brain was still developing when he participated in the crime.

Earlier this year, the California Supreme Court reversed the death sentence Scott Peterson received after being convicted for the 2002 murder of his wife and unborn child. In more recent news, the state’s high court ordered a trial judge to review the merits of one of Peterson’s post-conviction claims.

Specifically, the high court was concerned about Peterson’s claim that one of the jurors on his case failed to disclose that she had once feared for her unborn child when her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend harassed her. Evidently, the juror had to take out a restraining order against the woman, who was charged based on the juror’s allegations and ultimately spent a week in jail.

The juror’s failure to disclose this pertinent information, Peterson argued, consisted of “prejudicial misconduct.” In Peterson’s court filings, he notes that the juror seemed as though she “wanted” to be on the jury so that she could convict Peterson for his alleged crimes. Peterson notes that the juror’s employer did not offer to pay her for the time she would be on the jury, and that she agreed to sit on the jury even though it would take several months.

We are excited to announce the addition of Sandy to our team. Sandy has accepted the role of Law Firm Manager with Barhoma Law! Sandy previously was an executive assistant. Through her diligence, she has accepted a promotion to Law Firm Manager.

Sandy provides excellent rigior and culture to the Barhoma Law team. Adamant about constantly making progress, Sandy does not allow any of our cases to linger. Being that we are California Criminal Appeals lawyers, we cannot have cases linger in progress or in the Courts, especially given the added complications of COVID-19 delays.

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Sandy, Barhoma Law, P.C.’s new Law Firm Manager

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