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SB 1437 Successful Case, 2019
SB 1437 Successful Case, 2019
Federal Writ of
Habeas Corpus
Gained Key Ruling
$2.5M Breach of
Contract Claim
Successfully Defended Against
Justia Lawyer Rating
LACBA
AVVO
American Association Attorney Advocate
American Association Attorney Advocate
State Bar of California
The National Trial Lawyers Top 40 under 40
The National Trial Lawyers, Top 100 trial lawyers

Earlier this month, the state’s high court overturned the 2004 death sentence for Scott Peterson, for the murder of his wife, Laci Peterson. Back in 2002, Laci Peterson, seven months pregnant at the time, went missing on Christmas Eve. A few months later, her body washed ashore near Berkeley, California. A short time later, Scott Peterson was arrested and charged with capital murder. The prosecution sought the death penalty.

As is standard in capital jury trials, the trial was bifurcated into two phases. First, in the guilt phase, the jury was tasked with determining whether the prosecution proved that Peterson killed his wife beyond a reasonable doubt. After the jury found Peterson guilty, the trial moved on to the penalty phase.

At the penalty phase of a capital trial, the jury must decide if a defendant should be sentenced to death or if a sentence of life without the possibility of parole would be more appropriate. In the Peterson case, the jury recommended a death sentence, which was imposed by the trial judge on March 6, 2005.

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a California post-conviction case discussing whether the defendant was entitled to a new sentencing hearing. Ultimately, the court concluded that the lower court failed to consider the required “youth-related mitigating factors” at sentencing. As a result, the court remanded the case so the defendant could be re-sentenced.

The Facts of the Case

As is often the case in post-conviction matters, the underlying facts of the crime are less important than the procedural history of the case. Here, the defendant was charged with murder related to a robbery in 2015. Evidently, the defendant and a group of friends attempted to rob a man. When the man refused to hand over his backpack, the defendant beat the man with a metal baseball bat. The man died later that evening. At the time of the offense, the defendant was 17 years old.

The defendant was tried and convicted in front of a jury. After the jury returned a guilty verdict, the court sentenced the defendant to life without the possibility of parole. In doing so, the court relied on section 190.2(a)(17), which dictates that murder committed during the course of an enumerated felony is an aggravating circumstance to be used at sentencing. However, nowhere in the record did the court consider the defendant’s youth-related mitigation factors.

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California Criminal Appeals Attorney Wins Multiple SB 1437 Cases Within Six Month Span

Attorney Matthew Barhoma, founder of Barhoma Law, P.C., was successful at attaining multiple SB 1437 successes within a six-month span in 2019. Through our renowned criminal appeals process, attorney Matthew Barhoma was able to achieve these successes, all of which are outlined below.

SB 1437 is a January 2019 law that has ended the practice of assigning homicide convictions to defendants who never committed a homicide nor “acted with reckless indifference to human life”. Traditionally, under the Felony Murder Rule, if you were a co-defendant in a felony, and a homicide occurred throughout the commission of that felony, you were convicted with a homicide conviction under the natural and probable consequences doctrine. And this occurred regardless of whether you indeed acted with reckless indifference or even participated in the homicide. As such, under the old law, even if you were never physically present, nor authorized the commission of the homicide, you were still sentenced to a homicide sentence. Now, the law is different and more targeted to only those who intended to kill and/or acted with reckless indifference to human life in carrying out the homicide.

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